Varney not 'Ernest,' but delightful in 'Existo'

Critic's Choice: Film

February 20, 2000|By Ann Hornaday

The film world suffered a loss with the recent death of comic actor Jim Varney. Varney might have made his reputation with the idiotic "Ernest" movies, but his last film performance was no doubt his most inspired.

In "Existo," he plays a member of a manic performance art group trying to do battle with the forces of Christian fundamentalism. The film, which had its Baltimore premiere last year at MicroCineFest and returns Saturday to the Charles Theatre for a limited run, is filled with indelible moments, among them star Bruce Arnston hopping around on a pogo-stick that resembles a part of the male anatomy. But Varney has one of the choicest scenes when, covered in white paint and little else, he storms into a restaurant to deliver a dire and poetic message.

Even if it weren't for Varney, this cheekily subversive musical comedy (think the Baader-Meinhof gang meets Mickey Rooney) would be well worth a look. "Existo" will be on screen through Mar. 1.

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