tek's rating: ½

Ernest Saves Christmas (PG)
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Caution: potential spoilers.

I suppose when I first saw this on TV, probably sometime in the early 90s, I must have been vaguely aware of the character of Ernest P. Worrell, from his short-lived TV series, Hey Vern, It's Ernest!, and possibly some random commercials in which the character appeared. I've never really been a fan of Ernest, and I'm pretty sure this is the only one of his movies that I've watched all the way through. The only one I consider worth watching... partly because Ernest didn't seem all that annoying to me, here (I could kind of understand his appeal, for a change). But mostly I liked the movie because of Harmony (Noelle Parker). I suppose it's possible if I ever watched some of Ernest's other movies, I might kinda like them, but I doubt it.

Anyway, Santa Claus flies to Miami (on a commercial airliner, not his sleigh), looking for a man named Joe Carruthers, who had hosted a local children's show for years, which was recently cancelled. Santa's reindeer had been shipped in crates, and were left at the airport, where they were looked after by a couple of dumb guys who worked there. Meanwhile, Santa gets a ride from Ernest, who's driving a cab. Then he picks up a teenaged girl named Harmony Starr, who claims to be escaping from... slavery, or whatever. (Actually, she's just skipping out on a bill at a restaurant.) Ernest drops Santa off at a children's hospital, where Joe is entertaining kids. Before Santa can explain to Joe why he's there, Joe's agent Marty shows up, talking about an audition for a movie role. After Joe leaves, Marty finds out that the old guy who was talking to Joe thinks he's Santa Claus, so he calls the police, who take Santa away (thinking, obviously, that he's delusional).

Ernest later finds Santa's sack, which Santa had left behind in the cab, and when he looks inside, discovers that it's magical. So he realizes the guy really is Santa, and wants to return the sack. The next day, he and Harmony learn that Santa was arrested, so they don disguises, and go to the jail. Ernest pretends to be from the Governor's office, and Harmony pretends to be the Governor's niece, writing a school paper about "how government really works." (This is one of my favorite scenes in the movie, I thought Ernest and Harmony were both really funny in their assumed roles.) They manage to fool the cops, and get Santa out of jail. After that, he explains to them that he took over the job of being Santa in 1889, and that the magic fades over time. It's recharged by passing on the job to someone new, and that's why he wants to talk to Joe. So, Ernest dons another disguise to find out where Joe is, and meanwhile, Santa talks to Harmony. He clearly knows things about her that she's pretending are... not about her.

Um... well, Ernest will later use another disguise, and Harmony does something bad, and there are a couple of elves who go to collect the reindeer, and there's the question of whether Joe will even accept the position of Santa, and... you know, lots of stuff happens. It's all kind of redonkulous, but also kind of amusing, and kind of sweet and Christmasy. And stuff. The basic story was pretty decent, and Santa was good, and Harmony was cool (and I had quite the crush on her, back in the day), and Ernest was... weird. And of course there's a happy ending for everyone. The movie just holds up surprisingly well. And I dunno what else to say.

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