Thursday, December 11, 2014

Ernest Saves Christmas

I fear that Jim Varney's Ernest P. Worrell will probably not be embraced by future generations. I mean, they plan to do a reboot with Ernest's son, and hopefully, that will make his work available again, but I'm not sure his weird, wacky humor will be embraced by all.

Ernest is a simple-minded everyman, dressed in a baseball cap and denim vest. He had a series of adventures in film and television, generally free of any worry of continuity. 1988 brought a Christmas-themed film, Ernest Saves Christmas. It's part Miracle on 34th Street, part The Santa Clause (although that movie was still years away), and totally Ernest.

Ernest is a taxi driver in Orlando, Florida at the start of the movie, and winds up giving a lift to an old man (Douglas Seale, who my generation would later know as the Sultan in Aladdin) and picking up a girl who calls herself Harmony Starr (Noelle Parker). When the man, who says he's Santa Claus, can't pay, Ernest gets fired from his job. But Santa left his sack on his way to see his replacement, former children's television host Joe Carruthers (Oliver Clark).

Joe is kept from hearing Santa out by his agent Marty, who has him lined for a movie called Christmas Slay. Marty has Santa put in jail, where he leads the inmates in singing Christmas Carols. Ernest discovers the sack is magical, and with Harmony on board, breaks Santa out of jail. Ernest tries to help Santa meet with Joe and get his sack back, which isn't helped when Harmony steals the sack and runs away.

Ernest winds up picking up Santa's sleigh, reindeer, and two helper elves from the airport, flying it to the Children's Library, where Santa is waiting. Seeing Ernest flying causes Joe to accept the offer at last and become the new Santa Claus. Harmony (who both Santas know is really named Pamela Trenton, and that she ran away from an unhappy home) reconsiders running away and gives the sack to Santa. The movie ends as Ernest helps the new Santa fly the sleigh for the first time. (An additional scene suggests another holiday icon might need Ernest's help soon as an a crate belonging to "E. Bunny" arrives at the airport.)

The film is a favorite in my family, and is true missed Christmas classic. Ernest's kind nature makes him a perfect companion for Santa Claus, and Santa is a kindly (if absent-minded) old man who wants everyone to be their best. And finally, Pamela's plight makes her never really a villain (she is seen dining and dashing early on), but a very understandable character.

Who knows, though? Perhaps it may yet establish itself as a classic

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