Weekend at Bernie’s (1989)

22 Mar

corpse smell of mccarthyscareer

Smith’s Verdict: *

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Any subject can be done well, but I’d imagine it’d be hard to make a comedy surrounding the idea of constantly dragging around a dead body and hiding it. Alfred Hitchcock was mildly successful with “The Trouble with Harry,” but it hardly seems like the filmmakers of the comedy based around that premise, entitled “Weekend at Bernie’s,” are trying to see what they can really do with this idea. Rather, it seems like they only see the gimmick and surround it with uninteresting (and unappealing) characters and off-hand subplots. The result is an unfunny comedy in which two guys we don’t care about drag around a dead body from place to place.

The story’s two central protagonists are two young men (Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman) who work for an insurance company. Someone is cheating the company and that “someone” is their boss named Bernie (Terry Kiser). Bernie knows that the boys know his secret and invites them to his summer home on an island to have them killed. But when Bernie is fatally poisoned, the boys, not knowing what’s happened, prop Bernie on the couch as a flow of houseguests step in for a party. But the gag is, nobody—except the boys—knows that he’s dead. (A masseuse thinks he’s just relaxed, for example.)

But it doesn’t stop there—most of the humor follows with the two guys as they continue trying to cover up Bernie’s death until they can find out exactly what is going on. And this is after a lot of scenes in which the guys want nothing to do with the body, and it just keeps popping up every now and then. For example, in a stupid subplot in which Silverman and a girl played by Catherine Mary Stewart are on an on-again/off-again (and entirely boring) relationship, they roll around on the beach and what should pop up when the tide comes in? You got it; it’s the body.

I didn’t find all the material very funny; I thought the timing was off, the jokes were predictable, it was too macabre to laugh at almost every supposed joke in this movie, I had an excuse for not laughing at. But I will be fair and admit to chuckling at a scene that involves poor Bernie being dragged by a boat. I thought that was a nice sight gag and I laughed, despite myself.

But without the working humor, there’s the boring subplot featuring the dull romance I mentioned above, an even more boring subplot involving Bernie’s killers who want to kill the two guys as well, and the two unappealing characters that we have to follow. “Weekend at Bernie’s” is just an invaluably empty film.

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