Ernest Saves Christmas is a 1988 Touchstone Pictures comedy film directed by John R. Cherry III and starring Jim Varney. It is the third film to feature the character Ernest P. Worrell, and chronicles Ernest's attempt to find a replacement for an aging Santa Claus. The movie received an PG rating from the MPAA.
|Jim Varney||Ernest P. Worrell, Aster Clement, Auntie Nelda|
|Douglas Seale||Santa Claus|
|Oliver Clark||Joe Curruthers|
|Noelle Parker||Harmony Star, aka Pamela Trenton|
|Gailard Sartain||Chuck (Storage Agent)|
|Bill Byrge||Bobby (Storage Agent)|
|Billie Bird||Mary Morrissey|
|Key Howard||Immigration Agent|
|Beecher Martin||Agent Skippy|
|Barry Brazell||Cab Passenger|
|George Kaplan||Mr. Dills|
Ernest P. Worrell (Jim Varney) is working as a taxi driver in Orlando, Florida when he picks up a man at the airport (Douglas Seale) who claims to be Santa Claus. The man tells Ernest that he is on his way to inform a local personality named Joe Curruthers (Oliver Clark) that he has been chosen to be the new Santa Claus. Carruthers hosts a children's program in the Orlando-area similar to Mister Roger's Neighborhood with emphasis on manners and integrity with the catchphrase "They never get old. They always stay new. Those three little words, Please and Thank You.".
While they are driving, a runaway teenage girl (Noelle Parker) who says she is named Harmony Starr joins Ernest and Santa in the cab. When they get to their destination, Santa possesses no legal currency (only play money), so in his giving Christmas spirit, Ernest lets him ride for free. The decision gets Ernest fired from his job. Back at the taxi garage, Ernest discovers that Santa left his magic sack behind in the cab, and Ernest begins a quest to find the old man and return it to him.
Santa arrives at the Orlando Children's Museum to talk to Joe, but is interrupted and rebuffed by Joe's agent Marty Brock. Brock misunderstands Santa's name, thinking he said "Mr. Santos," and continues to call him by that name. Santa begins to worry as he then discovers he lost his sack, and becomes more discouraged as he realizes he is becoming forgetful in his old age (he's 151 years old, indicating he was born in 1837). Joe does not believe Santa's story and Joe's agent has Santa arrested. Ernest poses as Astor Clement, a friend of the governor and helps Santa escape from jail by convincing the police chief that Santa believing that he is Santa Claus is "infectious insanity" and he must be taken to solitary confinement. Meanwhile, Marty presses Joe to quit his children's job, shave his beard, and instead land a part in a horror film titled Christmas Slay a movie about an alien which terrorizes a bunch of children on Christmas Eve which offends Santa so deeply he punches the director in the eye.
Santa tracks down Joe at his home, but Joe finally tells Santa, "Thanks...no thanks." Later on, however, Joe is overcome by conscience when the director of the movie wants him to use foul language, which he refuses to say in front of the kids on the set.
Ernest and the girl discover the magic power of Santa's sack, and immediately the girl starts to abuse it. She steals the sack, and attempts to run away yet again. On Christmas Eve, however, her conscience prevails, and she rushes back to find Ernest and Santa and return the sack.
Eventually, Joe hunts down Santa on Christmas Eve and accepts the job. For the first year, however, Ernest gets to drive the sleigh. The film ends with, "Merry Christmas To All And To All A Good Night," followed by a sleigh dash that spells, KnowWhatIMean?, one of Ernest's catchphrases.