Ernest Goes to Camp

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

Ernest Goes to Camp is a 1987 American comedy film directed by John Cherry and starring Jim Varney. It is the second film to feature the character Ernest P. Worrell, and the first film in the Ernest series. It 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, as he is 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 trouble does not stop, as fellow camper Pennington and his friends, also continue to target Ernest and any new arrivals.

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, as 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 the land. 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, 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 run 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, along with Pennington and Brooks, putting aside their rivalries. The group improvises some explosive 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 initiation 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, with the last-chance kids getting to stay at camp. Nurse St. Cloud thanks Ernest for all he has done and reveals that Krader was ultimately arrested for fraud. Ernest is now a full-fledged counselor and also continues to perform his regular duties. As Ernest tries to rebuild the Kamp Kikakee sign, he ultimately falls and then the sign falls on him.



Principal photography took place in Tennessee from September 3 until September 24, 1986.[2] About 150 local Boy Scouts were hired as extras.[2]


On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 62% of 13 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 5.4/10.[3] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 24 out of 100, based on 5 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable" reviews.

Box office[edit]

Ernest Goes to Camp grossed $6.2 million in 1541 theaters its opening weekend.[4] By its second week, it had made $3.6 million.[5] It went on to gross a total of $23.5 million.[6]

Home media[edit]

Originally released on VHS in 1987,[7] with a re-issue in 1991 and a pan-and-scan Laserdisc release in 1992;[8] 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. The Blu-ray was released 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.[9]


  1. ^ Klady, Leonard (May 31, 1987). "The Importance of Being Ernest". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 4, 2023.
  2. ^ a b "Ernest Goes to Camp (1987)". American Film Institute. Retrieved December 31, 2022.
  3. ^ "Ernest Goes to Camp". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved January 25, 2024. Edit this at Wikidata
  4. ^ "Weekend Box Office". Los Angeles Times. May 6, 1997. Retrieved July 6, 2012.
  5. ^ "Weekend Box Office". Los Angeles Times. June 2, 1987. Retrieved December 27, 2010.
  6. ^ Ernest Goes to Camp at Box Office Mojo
  7. ^ "Ernest Goes to Camp VHS Amazon Listing". Amazon. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  8. ^ "Ernest Goes to Camp LDDB Page". LDDB. March 6, 2009. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  9. ^ "Ernest Goes to Camp / Camp Nowhere Blu-ray Disc Details". High-Def Digest. Retrieved December 31, 2022.

External links[edit]