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MOVIE REVIEWS : Eartha Kitt Livens Up 'Ernest'

October 11, 1991|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Over the years the movies have made precious little use of the distinctive talents of Eartha Kitt, but adults who accompany children to "Ernest Scared Stupid " (citywide), Disney's silly Halloween kiddie horror comedy, can be grateful for her stylish, witty presence.

Fitted out in a fright wig, Kitt plays a kind of backwoods Louise Nevelson, a junk sculptor who lives in an antebellum plantation mansion crowded with her somewhat sinister creations, expressive of her interest in the occult.

Long considered the town eccentric in the bucolic burg of Briarville, Mo., she's the one person to grasp what's going on when its children start disappearing. It seems that Ernest, the goofy nitwit created by comedian Jim Varney in TV commercials and three previous Ernest movies, has inadvertently unearthed a troll, buried alive 200 years earlier. If the troll succeeds in capturing the souls of five local kids no child in the entire world will be safe.

All this unfolds with much gimmickry and numskull action under the frenetic direction of John Cherry, who wrote the script with co-producer Coke Sams. "Ernest Scared Stupid" (rightly rated PG rather than G) is perfectly OK for 12-year-olds, but could give nightmares to the very young and impressionable.

'Ernest Scared Stupid'

Jim Varney: Ernest

Eartha Kitt: Old Lady Hackmore

Austin Nagler: Kenny

Shay Astar: Elizabeth

A Buena Vista release of a Touchstone Pictures presentation in association with Touchwood Pacific Partners I. Director John Cherry. Producer Stacy Williams. Executive producer Martin Erlichman. Screenplay by Cherry & Sams. Cinematographer Hanania Baer. Editor Craig Bassett. Costumes Shawn Barry. Music Bruce Arntson, Kirby Shelstad. Production design Chris August. Art director Mark Ragland. Creature effects by Chiodo Brothers Productions, Inc. Set decorator Linda J. Vipond. Sound Richard E. Schirmer. Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes.

MPAA-rated PG (considerable violence of a make-believe nature).

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