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‘Ernest Scared Stupid’

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 14, 1991


John R. Cherry III
Jim Varney;
Eartha Kitt
excessive troll slime

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They simply don't come any slower than Ernest P. Worrell, the global village idiot created 2,000 commercials, two TV shows and three movies ago by actor Jim Varney. Yet the goodly simpleton apparently still has IQ points to lose in the redundantly titled "Ernest Scared Stupid." Alongside this silly kiddie Halloween comedy, reruns of "Hee Haw" seem works of great comic sophistication.

Since last we met, Ernest has become a trash collector in bucolic Briarville, Mo., where Trantor the Terrible Troll has been bound in the roots of an oak tree for 200 years. The local eccentric, Old Lady Hackmore (Eartha Kitt), warns that a Worrell will soon break the ancient spell, thereby loosing the creature on the townspeople, especially the children.

Ernest, who is helping three excruciatingly wooden child actors build a treehouse in that very oak tree, scoffs at the notion. "He can only be awakened when a Worrell puts his hand on the tree the night before Halloween and says, 'Trantor, I call thee forth.' How likely is that?" Well, you can guess what night it is, where Ernest has his hand and whether or not Trantor remains rootbound.

Trantor is a hairy, warty, snotty-nosed little monster who is scary only if you are still too short to see over the coffee table. In his big-headed, slime-coated way, he is almost lovable, particularly when he's changing the Briarville brats into actual wooden dolls. He crosses the line, however, when he transforms the hero's charming canine companion Rimshot into a doggie log, which proves the final straw for Ernest. "Somebody with a runny nose is gonna die," says Ernest as he a-trollin' goes.

Like all the other "Ernests," this one is directed by John Cherry, the Tennessee advertising executive who invented this nouveau Gomer Pyle in the first place. Cherry is the pits as a moviemaker, but he recognizes the importance of there being an Ernest, a Goober or a Minnie Pearl. Even if most of us don't.

"Ernest Scared Stupid" is rated PG for excessive troll slime.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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