Ernest Goes to Camp Review

Regardless of Ernest Goes to Camp’s loose, lucid plotting, it’s central star is Jim Varney. Sure, it’s hard to separate Jim Varney the pitchman from Jim Varney’s Ernest P. Worrell, but either way he was infectious. He had a dominating energy and overactive enthusiasm for his material, even if the material was never going to pan out in the end.

That’s the saving grace of this kooky comedy, a mixture of ancient slapstick, rollicking side characters, and woefully disjointed sense of storytelling. It’s hard to establish a cohesively structured narrative when you’re inserting montages, Varney singing a musical number, overly foreshadowed events, and a dark side that is incredibly out of place.

Goes to Camp is just all over the map, but in a way, it keeps a kid’s attention. When one element begins losing its luster, another jumps on in to replace it. It’s almost 30-minutes in before the devilish Krader Mining Co. comes into play, led by a deliciously evil John Vernon. Ruthless as ever, he sends point man Lyle Alzado busting into a family’s home, staring a shotgun square in the face as he kicks the little ones out prior to the scheduled demolition.

And the movie thinks the second chance kids are bad why again?

But, that’s plot curve #2, a series of struggling youth pushed into the arms of new camp counselor Worrell, a bumbling goofball without the most basic of logic skills. He has dreams of making Camp Kikakee the best on the planet, his surefire attitude enough to get it done were it not for those meddling children. It’s sort of like remaking Dennis the Menace, only Dennis has taken over the bodies of six ’80s kids. Actually, that’s creepy. Cancel that.

Eventually, the paths intertwine, the greedy land developer plotline charging headfirst into the camp powers-that-be (and a few side characters) resulting in a battle of deadly consequences. Seriously. Worrell and company are not tossing Nerf darts at the construction workers, but explosive toilets, firework-laden oil lamps, and snapping turtles with the munchies. They really want their camp back.

Part of it is undoubtedly nostalgia, but that flaming toilet made total sense back in 1987. It’s a throwback to when personal safety wasn’t overmanaged, and you could actually get a restraining order against someone after you tried to blow them up with a rigged lamps. How charming and quaint the ’80s were.

Movie ★★★☆☆ 

Mill Creek issues the Blu-ray all have been waiting for (right?) with a 1080i AVC encode, the same one used on the combo disc with Ernest Goes to Jail. This stand-alone release has no differences, so off we go into a realm of traumatic print damage and occasional digitization artifacts. Camp is in desperate need of some clean-up, lines running through the image, a frame skip here and there appearing, while scratches will never remove themselves for long. How could someone not preserve this one better?

Making the decision to interlace, Mill Creek will establish a handful of various artifacts related to that misguided call, namely some aliasing. Edges can be crisp; most of them are. However, a handful in motion will visibly break up, ruining image stability. High contrast edges will introduce their own faults, including flagrant halos, although certainly not with the consistency of something like the print damage.

Grain is mild at best, a few interiors leading to spikes which remain under control of the compression. Close-ups will establish an inconsistent grip on fine detail while the mid-range squanders its chances. What’s left is a somewhat filtered-looking style that is anything but film-like. Still, a handful of shots snagged deep in the forest are more than admirable, definition appeasing even the hardcore Ernest-phile.

Colors are faded, another sign that the film is crying out for restoration. It’s a shame too, especially since the characters are bubbling with exaggerated personalities that would suit deep saturation. Contrast is weighty, while the blacks fade away. The latter can never quite garner enough support to really push like it should.

Video ★★★☆☆ 

Mill Creek cares even less about the audio, the Dolby Digital 2.0 effort preserving the original mix without any manipulation, while the compression doesn’t elevate it over the ancient DVD. It has no real presence to speak of, the wonky score that is all over the map never takes center stage, and the dialogue has no real push behind it.

The stereos spread out ever so slightly, a car passing here or there. A bit of stray dialogue may carry one direction or the other as well, although without much emphasis. Straightforward and numbing, the track exists, and that’s the best thing that can be said for it.

Audio ★★★☆☆ 

Nothing here. In fact, the disc boots right to the movie past the company credits.

Extras ☆☆☆☆☆ 

Note: Interlacing is part of the capture process, not present on the disc itself.