The 1990 comedy Ernest Goes to Jail is distributed by Touchstone Pictures. Its stars include Jim Varney as Ernest P. Worrall/Felix Nash/Auntie Nelda, Gailard Sartain as Chuck, Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb as Lyle, Bill Byrge as Bobby, and Barbara Bush as Charlotte Sparrow. The producers of this film are Coke Sams (TV’s Hey, Vern, It’s Ernest!) and Stacy Williams (Ernest Goes to Camp). The director is John Cherry (Ernest Saves Christmas).
The film’s story centers on a bank janitor named Ernest P. Worrall. He receives a letter requesting him to show up for jury duty. He happily tells his friends Chuck and Bobby. In the courtroom convict Rubin Bartlett notices that Ernest is the spitting image of a deathrow inmate he knows, Felix Nash. He requests that the jury see the scene of the crime, which is inside the prison. The clueless janitor is knocked out and Nash assumes his identity while his twin stays in prison to serve his sentence. The innocent Ernest tells everyone that he is not Nash but no one believes him. Rubin Bartlett, having been found not guilty, returns to prison to serve out an unrelated sentence. He informs Ernest that if he doesn’t start acting like Nash, the real Nash will hurt the ones he loves on the outside. Meanwhile on the outside, Ernest’s friends notice that he doesn’t seem to be himself as he plans to rob the bank he works at. Back in jail, the real Ernest realizes that he is in line for the electric chair. The real Ernest is stuck in jail on deathrow while the fake Ernest plans to rob the bank and flee.
Throughout the entire film, Ernest keeps getting electrocuted, making him magnetic. This is a hilarious feature to an already hilarious film. After he is electrocuted, all the metal objects in the room are attracted to him. It first happens in the beginning when he is using a floor polisher. When he turns it on, it quickly moves about the room dragging poor Ernest behind. He finally turns it off, but not before he accidentally shoots out soapy water all over the room as he falls to the floor and lands face down in it. A lamp also falls on the wet floor, electrocuting the janitor. As he gets up, all the metal objects, including some file cabinets, chase him into the safe where his face is caught between two metal drawers which are magnetically attracted to him.
Another notable electrocution scene is when Ernest is in the electric chair. Instead of killing him, the chair gives him the power to cast electricity around, make it easier for him to escape the jail by shooting electricity at anything in his way, like guards with guns or metal security doors.
One of the most interesting characters in the film is Lyle, Ernest’s cell mate. He helps Nash and Bartlett kidnap Ernest and dress him up in Nash’s prisoner clothes. But as the movie progresses, instead of being a punk to Ernest, like Rubin Bartlett, he takes a liking to him. We can clearly see this after Ernest wins the arm-wrestling match and Bartlett warns him not to speak so much or his loved ones will suffer. Lyle, instead of pushing Ernest aside and acting like the tough guy Nash’s other henchman Bartlett is, just shrugs his shoulders when the mistaken prisoner looks at him. Also when Ernest mistakenly thinks he is going to be let out and is saying how great it is to be alive, Lyle can’t stand it because he knows Ernest will soon go to the chair. Later on, he saves him from Rubin Bartlett.
To wrap, Ernest Goes to Jail is a good-hearted funny movie that will make all the viewers laugh until it hurts!