First the good news: this cornball comedy is less appalling than its predecessor, ERNEST GOES TO SCHOOL. The bad news is that SLAM DUNK ERNEST is another piecemeal confection built around the antics of Varney, the man who's taken an archetypal American comedy figure (the bumbling clown
with a romantic soul) and turned it into an oxymoron: a loveable redneck.
All his life, Ernest P. Worrell (Jim Varney) dreams of hoop stardom. Feeling that white janitors can't jump, his building maintenance buddies led by Barry (Cylk Cozart) ignore his pleas to join their amateur team. After Ernest takes the heat for property damage in the mall during a practice
session, the clean-up crew, including Barry, T.J. (Miguel Nunez Jr.), Walter (Richard Leacock), and Willie (Lester Barrie), soon regrets making Ernest their cheerleader, as his distracting rah-rahing costs them a big game. Divine intervention from an Archangel (Kareem Abdul-Jabar) presents Ernest
with magical shoes that improve his friends' chances in the city league championship. Yet Ernest's miraculous footwork has a downside as Barry's son Quincy (Aaron Joseph) starts worshipping Ernest's instant glory while dissing his father's diligent sportsmanship. Surprisingly, Ernest's mousey
sweetheart Erma Terradiddle (Louise Vallance) is transformed into a money-mongering temptress working for the devilish promoter (Jay Brazeua) who's eager to sign Ernest to an exclusive contract. After Ernest nets his team a chance to compete with the Charlotte Hornets in an exhibition match,
Ernest downplays his showboating and forces his dependent teammates to win through their innate ability. When T.J. fouls out, Ernest even manages to score a basket sans heavenly intervention. As Barry is scouted by pro agents, Ernest learns that being part of a team is sweeter than fleeting
victory, and Quincy returns a pair of expensive court shoes he shoplifted and begins following the example set by his hard-working father.
For proud papas and their sports enthusiast youngsters, SLAM DUNK ERNEST provides a fairly enjoyable time. Not nearly as preachy as bigger budgeted sports fantasies like ANGELS IN THE OUTFIELD, this rube-in-the-big-city comedy unleashes enough lightning-quick basketball action for armchair
b-ballers and enough slapstick to tickle the funny bones of very young viewers. Unfortunately, the direction isn't nimble enough to maximize these assets. While rural funnyman Varney's appeal endures from flick to flick, SLAM DUNK ERNEST isn't likely to win him new converts with its reversion to
formula. Each successive Ernest movie seems to simply move the character's patented destruction specialties to new venues. Although the film's life-lessons about team spirit are welcome in contemporary kid-flicks, does every ERNEST movie have to end with the puffed-up fool saving the day after
being deflated by the removal of some artificially-induced miracle helper? Watching Ernest settle for his own intrinsic Forrest Gumpdom is not a spectacle viewers can enjoy ad infinitum. To paraphrase James Brown, Ernest needs a brand new bag.
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- Released: 1995
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: First the good news: this cornball comedy is less appalling than its predecessor, ERNEST GOES TO SCHOOL. The bad news is that SLAM DUNK ERNEST is another piecemeal confection built around the antics of Varney, the man who's taken an archetypal American com… (more)