Ernest Goes to Jail

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Ernest Goes to Jail
Ernest goes to jail poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Cherry
Written byCharlie Cohen
Produced byMartin Erlichman
CinematographyPeter Stein
Edited bySharyn L. Ross
Music byBruce Arntson
Kirby Shelstad
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures Distribution
Release date
  • April 6, 1990 (1990-04-06)
Running time
81 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$9 million
Box office$25 million

Ernest Goes to Jail is a 1990 American comedy film directed by John Cherry and starring Jim Varney.[1] It is the fourth film to feature the character Ernest P. Worrell. It was shot in Nashville and Tennessee State Penitentiary. This is the second most successful of the Ernest films, behind Ernest Saves Christmas. It was in third place during its opening weekend, earning $6,143,372.[2] Its total gross was $25,029,569.[3]


Security guards Chuck and Bobby hear a sound coming from Howard County Bank and Trust and find a floor polisher that Ernest is trying to turn on for operation—he works as a night custodian at the bank—and dreams that he would be a clerk, but he ends up making a mess in the bank and he becomes magnetic from a mishap after being electrocuted. The next day, bank president Oscar Pendlesmythe's assistant, Charlotte Sparrow, requires him to clean up his disastrous mess and asks Ernest out to dinner to give him advice. Ernest takes a bath at home in a tumble dry washing machine and uses a blow dryer with a wind-tunnel force for his evening dinner with Charlotte in a restaurant. He later receives in the mail a summons to jury duty in court and tells the two watchmen about it. During the trial Dracup Maximum Security Prison convict Rubin Bartlett, who is tried for killing a fellow prisoner, notices that death row inmate Felix Nash resembles Ernest. Rubin's lawyer convinces the jury to tour the prison, where Ernest is kidnapped by Nash and another inmate named Lyle and forced to switch places with Nash. Ernest also does not know that he is in prison when he comes to.

While having lunch, a guard tells them to stand up and be quiet, when he notices Ernest is making a lot of noise, which almost sends him into the cell. Ernest tries a first attempt to tell one of the prison guards that he is Ernest, not Nash, but the guard calls him "Mr. Funny Man" and throws him into the cell right in front of Lyle who pushes him back while the first attempt fails. When he pushes him near the prison bars, he tells a prison guard that he was beaten up (and accidentally slamming the guard's head on the bars). A prison guard tells Ernest that he will be sent to the hole, which makes Ernest realize he is in jail. He has numerous misadventures in prison (especially when trying to escape, e.g., when he attempts to fashion a gun out of soap and his scheme is revealed when the gun goes limp) until he is sent to the electric chair by the prison warden a death sentence which was originally for Nash.

The electrocution fails, and he is transformed into a type of superhuman, with the ability to shoot lightning bolts from his hands, which shocks other jail members. Ernest escapes from the prison and makes his way home, only to discover that his Pee-wee Herman–like décor has been replaced by a slick lounge lizard style of decorating. He exclaims, "I've been vandalized—by Elvis!" Ernest then goes to the bank, in his old clothes, only to find that Nash has assumed his identity and is in the process of robbing the bank and is holding Chuck and Charlotte hostage. During the ensuing battle between the two of them he gets electrocuted yet again when Nash throws him against an electric cage that the bank had rigged to drop from the ceiling to catch robbers. Now Ernest has become polarized and gained the ability to fly. He uses his super powers to fly through the skylight of the bank with a bomb that Nash had attached to the vault which leads to a spectacular mid-air explosion. Everyone especially Chuck thinks that Ernest has been killed, Pendlesmythe discredits Ernest to the police at the bank, but Charlotte argues on his behalf, and Nash sticks everyone up until Ernest falls through the skylight and lands on Nash, which leads the warden and the guards to find out Ernest was right all along. Ernest tiredly declares, "I came, I saw, I got blowed up" and then passes out.



The reviews for the movie were universally negative.[4][5][6]

Box office[edit]

The movie debuted at No. 3.[7]

Home media[edit]

Originally released on Laserdisc[8] and VHS in January 1991, and its first DVD release was on September 3, 2002 from Touchstone Home Entertainment. Mill Creek Entertainment re-released it on February 10, 2008 as part of the Ernest 2-Movie Collection with Slam Dunk Ernest and on January 18, 2011, as part of a two-disc set Ernest Triple Feature along with Ernest Goes to Camp 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 Camp. The 2011 releases mark the first time the film has been available in widescreen.

TV Version[edit]

An alternate edit of this film aired on NBC in August 1994, which contained several additional scenes not found on its home media releases, including an alternative ending scene where Ernest now works as a bank clerk, but another electrical mishap causes a file cabinet to fly towards him.[9]


  1. ^ "Ernest Goes to Jail". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  2. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for April 6–8, 1990". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-04-01.
  3. ^ "Ernest Goes to Jail (1990)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-04-01.
  4. ^ "Review/Film;Ernest Again, Invulnerable To Life's Inanimate Objects". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-06-05.
  5. ^ "Ernest Goes to Jail". Deseret News. Retrieved 2012-06-05.
  6. ^ "Ernest Goes to Jail". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2012-06-05.
  7. ^ "'Turtles' Take: $50.9 Million in Two Weeks : Box office: The kids movie featuring the wise-cracking quartet of terrapins is close to setting a record for an independent film". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-05.
  8. ^ "Ernest Goes to Jail LDDB Entry". LDDB. March 6, 2009. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  9. ^ "Ernest Goes to Jail (1990) - IMDb". IMDb. Retrieved 26 March 2019.

External links[edit]