Making the Grades
The character of Ernest is a perfect example of taking a good idea too far. In 30 second doses, he was funny, especially as he placed the viewer in the position of his friend Vern. However, if you try watching that same commercial about 200 times, you would have sat through an average Ernest movie, which is an interesting experience.
Interesting because Varney's films actually make money. They are not box office record setters, but they pay the bills, and after seeing the production values in this film, I'm sure there were not a lot of expenses in the first place.
The plot is simple. Ernest is a janitor at a university where a professor (who shares Ernest's lack of brain power) is convinced that the real Crown Jewels of England are hidden in a huge cannon from the American civil war. At least I think that's the idea. Much like an Ernest commercial, the plot resides in the first 60 seconds. After that, Ernest spends most of the film riding a huge cannon down a hill that never ends, and running into all sorts of interesting people.
There is a lot of shooting in the movie, with bad guys shooting 30 bullets before reloading. Just when Ernest is cornered, the crook spends a lot of time sneering into the camera instead of pulling the trigger, and Ernest gets away again. Ernest also brutalizes his own body repeatedly through his stupid antics and stunts.
This film really is made for the 8- to 12-year-old range and for the most part is harmless. The real danger here is the possibility of brain decomposition before the end credits roll. Much like Ernest's cannon ride, this film heads downhill right from the start.