Ernest Goes to Camp

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, and Iron Eyes Cody's final appearance on screen.

Ernest Goes to Camp
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn R. Cherry III
Produced byMartin Erlichman
Elmo Williams
Written byJohn R. Cherry III
Coke Sams
Music byShane Keister
CinematographyHarry Mathias
Jim May
Edited byMarshall Harvey
Distributed byBuena Vista Distribution
Release date
  • May 22, 1987 (1987-05-22)
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3 million
Box office$23.5 million[1]


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, one of the regular campers, because he was 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 doesn't 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, beats up Ernest, who goes away alone. 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.

Krader is poised 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. Krader 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.

Later, Kamp Kikakee is operational again with all the campers and a full staff. Nurse St. Cloud thanks Ernest for all he has done and reveals that Krader was ultimately arrested for fraud. Chief St. Cloud now seems to understand English, and Ernest is a full-fledged counselor. When trying to rebuild the Kamp Kikakee sign, Ernest falls, after being pushed by his buddy Vern.


  • 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 the best received of the franchise, earning a 62% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, indicating a mostly positive response.[2] However, Varney was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award as Worst New Star.

Box office

The film was a box office success.[3][4][5]


The songs were written by Alice and Shane Keister.

  • Ashley Cleveland sang "We're Gonna Win this One" while the boy campers are building their teepee.
  • Gary Chapman sang "Brave Hearts" during the film and in the credits.
  • Ernest sang "Gee I'm Glad It's Raining" when he and other campers are sad about the camp's closing.
  • The second song used when Ernest sends box turtles by parachute on Krader's men is "Happy Together," a song which was written and recorded by the musical group The Turtles. It also serves as a theme song of the film.

Home media

Originally released on VHS in June of 1991[6], with a Pan & Scan Laserdisc release the following year[7]; this film's first DVD release was on September 3, 2002, from Walt Disney Studios 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. Willman, Chris (1993-11-16). "Varney: The Importance of Being Ernest". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
  3. "Weekend Box Office". Los Angeles Times. 1997-05-06. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
  4. "Weekend Box Office". The Los Angeles Times. 1987-06-02. Retrieved 2010-12-27.
  5. 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.
  6. "Ernest Goes to Camp VHS Amazon Listing". Amazon. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  7. "Ernest Goes to Camp LDDB Page". LDDB. March 6, 2009. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
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