Ernest Saves Christmas
Ernest Saves Christmas is a 1988 American Christmas comedy film directed by John R. Cherry III and starring Jim Varney. This is the first film to feature Gailard Sartain's character, Chuck along with Bill Byrge as his brother, Bobby. They made their first appearance in the television series Hey Vern, It's Ernest!, which was in production at the same time as this film. Ernest Saves Christmas is the third film to feature Varney's character Ernest P. Worrell, and chronicles Ernest's attempt to help find a replacement for an aging Santa Claus.
|Ernest Saves Christmas|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John R. Cherry III|
|Produced by||Joseph Akerman|
|Screenplay by||Ed Turner|
|Story by||Ed Turner|
|Music by||Mark Snow|
|Edited by||Ian D. Thomas|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
|Box office||$28.2 million|
A man claiming to be Santa Claus arrives in Orlando, Florida, where Ernest P. Worrell is working as a taxicab driver. He picks up Santa, who tells Ernest that he is on his way to inform a local celebrity named Joe Carruthers that he has been chosen to be the new Santa Claus. Joe hosts a local children's program with emphasis on manners and integrity.
While they are driving, a runaway teenage girl who says she is named Harmony Starr joins Ernest and Santa in the taxicab. When they get to their destination, Santa possesses no legal currency (only play money), so in his giving Christmas spirit, Ernest lets him ride for free. The decision gets Ernest fired from his job. Ernest later discovers that Santa left his magic sack in the taxicab, and Ernest begins a quest to find the old man and return it to him.
At the Orlando Children's Museum, Santa tries talking to Joe, but is rudely interrupted and rebuffed by Joe's agent Marty Brock. Santa begins to worry when he discovers his sack is missing, and becomes more discouraged because of his increasing forgetfulness, a result of being 151 years old. Santa tries to explain his predicament, but Joe does not believe him and Marty has Santa arrested. Ernest poses as an employee of the governor with Harmony as the governor's niece, and the two help Santa escape from jail by convincing the police chief that Santa must be taken to an insane asylum. Santa explains to Ernest and Harmony that he was handed down the job of Santa Claus in 1889 and has enjoyed it ever since, but the magic grows weaker over time. The only way to restore its full strength is to pass it on to someone else which is why he must find Joe and make him the new Santa Claus by 7 pm. Ernest disguises himself as a snake rancher so he can sneak Santa into a movie studio. Marty presses Joe to quit his children's job and instead land a part in a horror film titled Christmas Slay, about an alien which terrorizes children on Christmas Eve, a concept that offends Santa so deeply he punches the director.
Santa later tracks down Joe at his home. He explains about passing the position of Santa Claus over to him because otherwise the magic will eventually die. Santa also explains that from Orlando, Joe must leave to deliver the presents by 7 pm; if he leaves any later, he will run into daylight before he finishes. Joe declines, but later is overcome by conscience when the film director wants him to use foul language, which he refuses to say in front of the children on the set.
Ernest and Harmony (whose real name is later revealed by Santa to be Pamela Trenton) discover the magic power of Santa's sack, and Pamela starts to abuse it. She steals the sack, and attempts to run away again. However, on Christmas Eve, her conscience prevails, and she rushes back to find Ernest and Santa and return the sack. Ernest meets Santa's elves at the airport and they retrieve the reindeer and sleigh from the holding dock. Because they are short on time, Ernest decides to fly the sleigh to the children's museum, much to the helpers' objection. Having trouble controlling it at first, the reindeer and the sleigh fly all over the sky. At a meeting, Joe sees the reindeer and sleigh flying and it convinces him that everything Santa told him is real. Joe turns down the acting job and leaves to find Santa.
Joe finds Santa at 6:57 pm at the children's museum and tells Santa that he wants the job. Very pleased, Santa transforms Joe into the new Santa Claus. The new Santa uses his new magic to make it snow in Orlando. Ernest and the helpers arrive at the museum at 6:58. Pamela has called her mother and has decided to come home. The new Santa decides to have Pamela be his special helper and then take her to her home, and allows Ernest to be the sleigh driver for the night. The old Santa resumes his former identity, Seth Applegate, and spends Christmas Eve with an elderly museum employee named Mary Morrissey. The new Santa takes off at 7 pm to deliver the gifts.
- Jim Varney as Ernest P. Worrell
- Douglas Seale as Santa Claus (a.k.a. Seth Applegate)
- Oliver Clark as Joe Carruthers, the new Santa Claus
- Noelle Parker as Pamela Trenton, a.k.a. Harmony Starr
- Gailard Sartain as Chuck (Storage Agent)
- Bill Byrge as Bobby (Storage Agent)
- Billie Bird as Mary Morrissey
- Key Howard as Immigration Agent
- Jack Swanson as Businessman
- Buddy Douglas as Pyramus the Elf
- Patty Maloney as Thisbe the Elf
- Barry Brazell as Cab Passenger
- George Kaplan as Mr. Dillis
- Robert Lesser as Marty Brock
- Zachary Bowden as Boy in the Train Station
This was the first major feature production filmed almost entirely in Orlando, Florida, at the then-unfinished Disney-MGM Studios. Exterior scenes set at the house of Ernest's friend Vern were filmed at a house located on Residential Street at the park, and which was part of the Studio Backlot Tour until it was demolished in 2002.
The remainder of the scenes were filmed in various locations in the greater Orlando area, including Orlando International Airport, Epcot Center Drive, Lake Eola, Church Street Station and Orange Avenue in Downtown Orlando, a toll booth on the Bee Line Expressway (now known as the "Beachline Expressway"), the original Orlando Science Center which is now the John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center (used as the "Orlando Children's Museum" in the film), and the Orlando AMTRAK station. Scenes that take place at the movie studio and its hallways were shot at the facilities of the local FOX affiliate WOFL, which in the mid-1980s had its own custom promo featuring the Ernest character. A small number of scenes were filmed in Nashville.
The film was not a critical success, though it was commercially successful, being the highest-grossing of the five theatrical Ernest films. In its opening weekend, Ernest Saves Christmas was #2 at the box office and grossed $5,710,734 from 1,634 theaters. Its domestic total was $28,202,109, against a $6 million budget. It holds a 38% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
- "Orlando Looking Good As 'Ernest' Hits Screens". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
- Wilmington, Michael (1988-11-15). "Not Even Christmas Can the Save New 'Ernest'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
- "Jim Varney Is Good For Some Laughs". Chicago Tribune. 1988-11-14. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
- "Ernest Saves The Day When Santa Needs Help". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
- "Box Office Mojo". Retrieved 4 October 2014.