"Ahh, smell those Christmas trees. You can keep your 'Channel' Number 5, just give me a whiff of the old lonesome pine. That symbol of brotherly love, that centerpiece that all mankind gathers around to share the cranberry sauce shaped like a can." - Ernest P. Worell
Comic Jim Varney made a name for himself in the late 1980's and early 1990's as Ernest P. Worell, a hapless southern hokey. Most of his Ernest films became a cult following for parents looking for kid friendly films for their children to watch. Just think of Ernest as an early Jim Carey in The Mask cross pollinated with Pee Wee Herman and Larry the Cable Guy.
In this 1988 kid-friendly Christmas favorite, Ernest tries to help Santa persuade his chosen successor that "he is the one" to play the role of Jolly Ole' St. Nick. This is probably the first Santa film where we are first given the thought that even Santa gets old and needs to find a replacement.
"When the magic fades, it is re-energized through another Santa. The torch is passed on when the flames dies," Santa explaining to Ernest his reasoning behind finding a successor.
I love the opening credits as the film shows nostalgic Christmas images from generations past; everything from Saturday Evening Post images to the 1980's images this film was made in.
Ernest plays a cab driver but mixes it up well disguising himself from an old lady to a snake farmer. He also comes across throughout this film as one who looks at Christmas in a special way even as an adult,
"You know, I don't tell many people this, but Christmas is just about my favorite time. Ever since I was a little kid, I always felt like it was my own personal holiday."
Santa Claus has chosen a children's tv show host named Joe Curruthers to be the next important man in the red suit. But Curruthers agent has different ideas for his client, he would rather see him take on a major movie role in a horror flick called Santa Slay.
When Santa first arrives in Orlando off his plane, he appears just like any other human: dressed in normal clothes, although he has white hair and beard which resembles you know who. As cab driver Ernest picks Santa up at the airport, we see another North Pole fiasco for the people in Orlando: within the luggage cargo on the plane there are some crates containing moving animals...animals with horn and hoofs!
Throughout the film we get a glimpse of airport employee Chuck and his co-worker's amusing way of handling some rambunctious reindeer. These reindeer are able to hoof across the airport hanger ceiling upside down.
I love it when they call animal control for help and when they arrive to see the reindeer walking upside down:
Animal officer #1:[they have just discovered the particulars of Chuck's animal control problem]
"Oh... FLYING... reindeer. Um, that's not us. You want air traffic control."
Animal officer #2: " Um... yeah."
Some of the humorous conversations of Ernest in this film:
1. At Ernest's first discovery that Santa is indeed his cab fare, Ernest brags about his love for,
"Donner and Blister," and all the other reindeer on Santa's sleigh.
2. When Ernest tries to convince his friend, a teenager who calls herself Harmony Star, that he is helping Santa reach his successor, she obviously has her doubts,
Harmony Star, "There's no such thing! Think about it: a guy who flies around the whole world in one night. It just doesn't quite correspond to the laws of time and travel."
Ernest, "Now, now, now, now, now, it's possible. You take the International Date Line, multiply it by the Time Zones, divided by the accelerated rotation of the earth... uh, carry the 1, and, uh, allowing for the Vernal Equinox on the Tropic of Cancer, he might just pull it off."
After Ernest drops off Santa, he realizes on his way home that Santa has left his magical sack of toys in his cab. So, another conflicting story within this crazy merry-go-round circus is Ernest's attempt to save Christmas by returning the sack to Santa Claus.
Although I try to shy away from recommending films that include Santa Claus, this is just a good, wholesome family friendly film (I'll leave it up to the parents to explain the no Santa to their kids).
The one truly good message that will come across your mind when watching this film is the passing of the baton. If you come from a big, close family like myself, you can probably relate to this passing of the torch. I think it is important to have a successor in your family, whether it's keeping the family intact or being the spiritual leader of the family; keeping the torch lit is important.
I was fortunate that God had a plan in place before my grandfather, the spiritual patriarch of the family , passed away. Little did I know that God had been preparing me all those years to be that successor. It's a role I now enjoy and don't take lightly.
Whether you are a father or a grandfather, or maybe a mother or grandmother, it's never to early to start praying and spending time with the little one's in your life, bringing them up in the love and nurture of the Lord. And what better time to start than this holiday season.
As for Ernest Saves Christmas, (spoiler alert!!) after the new Santa Claus rides off with his reindeer, a new crate appears in the airport hanger, can you guess who? Yep, a giant Easter Bunny.
Next week, Madea's Christmas.