Bernie Lomax is the life of the party, especially when he’s dead!
Larry and Richard are two aspiring yuppies who are trying to get noticed at the insurance firm they work at. When they discover what they think is a major accounting error, they bring it to the attention of company bigwig Bernie Lomax. Bernie thanks them and invites them over to his beach house for the weekend.
Little do the boys know that he is actually responsible for the financial issue and plans to have some mobster pals bump them off to keep it quiet. The mobsters have other plans and bump off Bernie instead. Now Larry and Richard have a dead host on their hands and no way back to the mainland, so the brilliant idea is hatched to pretend Bernie is still alive long enough to get away. Most of the locals are so drunk and stoned that they barely notice that Bernie isn’t talking much. This way, the boys figure they won’t be blamed for the murder and will avoid ending up as inmates in the local lockup.
This starts a whole string of comedic scenarios involving drunk and stoned neighbors, jealous girlfriends, confused hitmen and Richard trying to convince his girlfriend Gwen that he isn’t totally nuts.
Weekend at Bernie’s is one of a string of spectacularly weird dark comedies that came out in the late 80’s to early 90’s. I’m not entirely sure what was going through Hollywood screenwriting circles at the time? Maybe some spiked marijuana or a bad batch of cocaine? (Kidding)!
But seriously, films like The Burbs’, Home Alone, Nothing but trouble, Baby’s Day Out, Home Fries and Weekend at Bernie’s are just crazy enough to be good fun while remaining distinctly different from the overcharged, gross out insanity of the Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, Jim Carrey troika of the mid 90’s early 00’s.
Weekend At Bernie’s is a similar concept to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Trouble With Harry, just with a more madcap comedy element. The biggest problem in the film is what to do about Bernie, he obviously can’t do anything himself so the writing has to contrive all of his interactions in such a way that people could plausibly think he’s alive if stoned out of his mind.
This is also the film’s greatest strength. The level of creativity on the part of the gag writers and the epic stoicism of actor Terry Kiser, who plays Bernie, allow most of the gags to go off properly. I honestly don’t know how Kiser kept a straight face through some of this. He spends the latter 2/3rds of the film with the same enigmatic expression, despite being manipulated, dropped, buried, folded, spindled and mutilated by practically everyone in the film.
The film is a competently directed and acted production that never tries to be anything other than what it is. It’s low brow comedy through and through, poking fun at rich people, New Yorkers, yuppies, the mob and drug use with the gleeful abandon of a smart-alecky 13 year old. The laughs are pretty common in this one and a few of the comedic sequences are side splittingly funny.
One of the best involves Bernie’s body, a speedboat and navigation buoys. Another is the poor hitman, Pauley, who can’t seem to figure out how this Bernie guy won’t stay dead and is acting like an inmate from an asylum by the end of the film.
This isn’t fine cinema by any means, but if you like fast paced pratfalls, snappy dialog and reaction gags; then there are worse ways that you can spend an afternoon.
Verdict: 3 Gavels out of 5
Quirky little comedy with a nicely offbeat premise and good performances and comedic timing. Recommended for fans of dark comedy or the superhuman near-cartoon antics of films like Home Alone. You can usually find this one on the Cable channels and one streaming service or another.