Ernest Goes to Camp

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Ernest Goes to Camp
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn R. Cherry III
Written byJohn R. Cherry III
Coke Sams
Produced byMartin Erlichman
Elmo Williams
CinematographyHarry Mathias
Jim May
Edited byMarshall Harvey
Music byShane Keister
Distributed byBuena Vista Distribution
Release date
  • May 22, 1987 (1987-05-22)
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3.5 million
Box office$23.5 million[1]

Ernest Goes to Camp is a 1987 American comedy film directed by John R. Cherry III and starring Jim Varney. It is the second film to feature the character of Ernest P. Worrell and was shot at Montgomery Bell State Park. It was also the first Ernest film to be distributed by Touchstone Pictures. This film also marks Iron Eyes Cody's final appearance on screen.


Long ago, a young Plains warrior is tested for initiation by being the target of three different weapons.

Centuries later, Ernest P. Worrell works as a maintenance man at Kamp Kikakee but hopes to become a counselor. He quickly becomes a valuable addition to the staff, skilled at Plains Indian Sign Language, used by Kikakee's owner, Chief St. Cloud.

A small group of juvenile delinquents, the Second Chancers, come to Kikakee. Head Counselor Tipton assigns Kikakee's most experienced counselor, Ross Stennis, to be the boys' counselor. Stennis is unhappy with this assignment, and he treats the boys harshly. He ultimately goes too far by intentionally causing "Moose" Jones, the smallest boy in the group, to nearly drown in the lake while swimming. After Moose is rescued by Ernest, the boys retaliate against Stennis's cruelty by toppling his lifeguard perch into the lake, breaking Stennis' leg in the process. Since Stennis is no longer able to perform his duties as a counselor, and because Kikakee is already shorthanded, Tipton offers Stennis' position to Ernest.

The Second Chancers initially give Ernest trouble, but they start to show some respect during a campfire session when Nurse St. Cloud, the Chief's granddaughter, translates her grandfather's description of the warrior initiation ritual for his tribe. The initiate must hold still while a knife, a stone hatchet, and an arrow are thrown or shot at him. The courage of the young warrior apparently alters the course of each weapon to prevent it from striking him. The Second Chancers later build a tepee only to see it get burned. They fight Pennington and his friends, because they were responsible for the fire. Tipton is poised to expel the Second Chancers, but Ernest convinces him otherwise.

Meanwhile, a mining corporation run by Sherman Krader wants to mine the petrocite at Kikakee, but Chief St. Cloud refuses to sell. Upon realizing that the Chief does not even understand English, Krader manipulates Ernest into obtaining the Chief's signature under false pretenses. Ernest, thinking that he is helping the Chief sign an anti-pollution petition, instead unknowingly convinces the Chief to sign the land away. Tipton sadly announces that the camp must close. Nurse St. Cloud confronts Ernest, who stammers that he will fix the situation.

Ernest and the Second Chancers storm onto the construction site and demand to see the boss. Krader is not present, but the foreman, Bronk is. Ernest tries to fight him, but Bronk brutally beats him up. The Second Chancers give up on Ernest and storm away. Later, Nurse St. Cloud overhears the kids demeaning Ernest's effort, so she reveals to them that Ernest is the only person who has defended them. They resolve to find him and apologize. They then form a plan to stop Krader and his construction crew.

Krader is prepared to demolish Kikakee, and while the regular staff and campers are sent home, Ernest and the Second Chancers openly attack the construction site to stall for time. They are joined by Chief St. Cloud, chefs Jake and Eddie, and former camper rivals, Pennington and Brooks. The group improvises some non-lethal weapons. Chief St. Cloud arrives to bless the fighters, although Nurse St. Cloud begs them not to go through with it. The assault quickly cripples the construction site's equipment. However, Bronk escapes in a bulldozer and destroys several camp buildings. The group stops him with Ernest's motorized maintenance cart filled with explosives, Ernest then knocks out Bronk.

Krader arrives on the scene with his lawyer, and then targets Ernest with his hunting rifle. Echoing Kikakee's ancient testimonial pow wow, Ernest faces down Krader and apparently passes the test as Krader takes three shots at him, missing every time. Ernest then plugs Krader's rifle with his finger and laughs in his face, signaling Krader's defeat. As Krader retreats, Nurse St. Cloud returns with a restraining order against the demolition.

Kamp Kikakee is once again operational, with all the campers and a full staff on site. Nurse St. Cloud thanks Ernest for all he has done and reveals that Krader was ultimately arrested for fraud. Ernest is a full-fledged counselor, and the last chance kids get to stay at camp. When trying to rebuild the Kamp Kikakee sign, Ernest falls; and the sign falls on him.


  • Jim Varney as Ernest P. Worrell
  • Victoria Racimo as Nurse St. Cloud
  • John Vernon as Sherman Krader
  • Iron Eyes Cody as Old Indian 'Chief St. Cloud'
  • Lyle Alzado as Bronk Stinson, Krader's Foreman
  • Gailard Sartain as Jake (Chef #1)
  • Daniel Butler as Eddie (Chef #2)
  • Patrick Day as Bobby Wayne
  • Scott Menville as Crutchfield
  • Danny Capri as Danny Simpson
  • Jacob Vargas as Butch "Too Cool" Vargas
  • Todd Loyd as Chip Ozgood
  • Hakim Abdulsamad as Moustafa "Moose" Hakeem Jones
  • Eddy Schumacher as Counselor Ross Stennis
  • Richard Speight, Jr. as Brooks
  • Andy Woodworth as Pennington
  • Buck Ford as Mr. Elliott Blatz, Krader's Attorney
  • Larry Black as Mr. Tipton, the Head Counselor of Kamp Kikikee
  • Hugh Sinclair as Counselor Sparks
  • Johnson West as Counselor Puckett
  • Jean Wilson as State Supervisor
  • Ivan Green as Mr. Stewart
  • Christian Haas as Molly Stewart
  • Brenda Haynes as Mrs. Stewart
  • Charlie Lamb as Miner
  • Mac Bennett as Miner


Ernest Goes to Camp was well received, earning an 62% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, indicating a mostly positive response.

Box office[edit]

The film was a box office success.[2][3][4]


The songs (unless noted) were written by Alice and Shane Keister.

  • Ashley Cleveland sang "We're Gonna Win this One" while the boy campers are building their teepee.
  • Chef Eddie sang "Quando Condo" during a mid-credit scene. The song was composed by J. Patten and R. Vitello.
  • Ernest sang "Gee I'm Glad It's Raining" when he and other campers are sad about the camp's closing.
  • Gary Chapman sang "Brave Hearts" when Ernest and the remaining campers prepare to attack the construction site and in the credits.
  • Jackie Welch sang "Doing Time" when Ernest arrives at the detention center pick up the Second Chancers.
  • The Second Chancers sang "Happy Together" during the film. The song was written and recorded by the musical group The Turtles. (An instrumental version of the song appears when Ernest sends box turtles by parachute to the miner's construction site.)
  • W.T. Davidson sang "Lost Without Love" during the film.

Home media[edit]

Originally released on VHS in June 1991,[5] with a Pan & Scan Laserdisc release the following year;[6] this film's first DVD release was on September 3, 2002, from Touchstone Home Entertainment. Mill Creek Entertainment re-released it on January 18, 2011, as part of the two-disc set Ernest Triple Feature along with Ernest Goes to Jail and Ernest Scared Stupid. They also released the film for the first time on Blu-ray on March 29, 2011, in a single disc Double Feature set along with Ernest Goes to Jail, and later on its own Blu-ray on June 13, 2011. A second Blu-ray double feature with Camp Nowhere was released on March 26, 2013.


  1. ^ Ernest Goes to Camp at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ "Weekend Box Office". Los Angeles Times. 1997-05-06. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
  3. ^ "Weekend Box Office". Los Angeles Times. 1987-06-02. Retrieved 2010-12-27.
  4. ^ Klady, Leonard (1989-01-08). "Box Office Champs, Chumps : The hero of the bottom line was the 46-year-old 'Bambi'". Los Angeles Times. p. 2. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
  5. ^ "Ernest Goes to Camp VHS Amazon Listing". Amazon. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  6. ^ "Ernest Goes to Camp LDDB Page". LDDB. March 6, 2009. Retrieved November 17, 2019.

External links[edit]