When something seems too good to be true, it usually is.
Two corporate employees, Richard and Larry, Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman, found that out
not long after informing their boss, Bernie Lomax, president of their insurance company, played by Terri
Kiser, that someone within the company is guilty of embezzlement. Bernie, rather than kicking them out
of his office, ironically invites them to spend a weekend at his luxury house on the beach.
Women, leisure, booze. What could be better, right?
A lot could be better, actually. Bernie has connections with the mafia and orders a hit on his employees.
Only the hit backfires. Bernie ends up dead. Then it is up to Richard and Larry to convince Bernie’s
party-guests that he is still alive. Such is the ridiculous, wacky over the top premise of Ted Kotcheff’s
classic 1989 comedy “Weekend At Bernie’s.”
I’m the Ranting Usher. Let me talk you to your seat.
It was not uncommon for comedy directors in the ‘80s and ‘90s to pump their movies full of what I like to
call “anecdotal slapstick steroids” in the hopes that they will compensate for various plot issues. Ricky
Friedberg’s “Spy Hard” is one good example.
So, what about those plot issues?
Well, a plot is often categorized in one of two ways. Either it is character driven or situation based.
“Weekend At Bernie’s” spends a third of its time developing Richard, Larry, Bernie and love interest
Gwen because the movie is trying hard to be character driven. But it’s not.
Richard and Larry trying to keep Bernie alive as much as possible is the driving force of the story.
Besides, why do we want to spend so much time getting to know an essential character we know is going
to spend the second half of the movie dead? Admittedly, that is what makes the movie so sardonically
funny. I just wish it didn’t take so long to get to that point.
Richard and Larry, are portrayed as lower level insurance agents stuck in dead-end jobs. So, what do
they do? They blow off work and go to the beach because, you know, what better way to get promoted?
Perhaps if the writers, directors and editors had insisted that Richard and Larry stay at work a little longer
they might have discovered the embezzlement error that put them in touch with Bernie Lomax and thus
set the story in motion a lot sooner. That’s all right because it’s an ‘80s comedy and we’re not meant to
take it that seriously.
Speaking of humor, while “Weekend At Bernie’s” does have many hilarious scenes, some of those
scenes are diluted by predictability. Like the scene where Bernie, whose body was swept away by high
tide, washes up right alongside Richard and Gwen while they are making love.
Sometimes, predictability works. Sometimes we still laugh at something even though we know what’s
coming. The question is timing. In that particular scene, I think Bernie washing up alongside the two
lovers may have happened too soon. Maybe if the sequence had been drawn out more it would have
You wouldn’t think playing a dead guy would be difficult. I must give props to Terri Kiser. He was quite
the trooper. His character, Bernie, was the center of attention and he couldn’t say a word. He endured
getting smothered by crowds of people who didn’t realize he was dead. He had to put up with Jonathan
Silverman and Andrew McCarthy jerking him around, dragging him through the mud and through the
water. What was more, their attempts to keep him alive were so convincing that even the hitman
believed them and kept going in for another kill.
That Kiser pulled these things off without once showing a crack in his lifeless façade is a testament to
dedicated and skillful acting.
Despite its minor flaws, “Weekend At Bernie’s” is pure fun, a great classic to throw in on a lazy Sunday
afternoon. It will make you truly appreciate what it means to be alive. You will crack up watching it.
I’m the Ranting Usher and whoever said there isn’t life after death has obviously never seen this movie.
The Ranting Usher has decided to implement a rating system into his reviews. On a scale of one to five,
one being the lowest, five being the greatest, I would say “Weekend At Bernie’s” is worth three views.
What do you think about “Weekend At Bernie’s?” Let me know in the comments down below and I’ll see
you next time.