Bottom Line: It could have been some great, silly fun.
Directed by: Ted Kotcheff
Starring: Andrew McCarthy, Bruce Barbour, Catherine Mary Stewart, Don Calfa, Eloise Broady, George Cheung, Jason Woliner, Jonathan Silverman, Steve Howard, Terry Kiser
Absurd, madcap comedy about two young men, Larry Wilson (Andrew McCarthy) and Richard Parker (Jonathan Silverman) who are invited to the beach for a weekend, a bit of a “thank you” from their cigarette-smoking, shade-wearing boss, Bernie (Terry Kiser), for an impressive accomplishment they had made. A few minutes before Larry and Richard arrive at their boss’s beach house, he is murdered discreetly with a lethal injection. It takes the two young men a few minutes to realize Bernie is dead. In order to stay at the beach over the weekend, Larry and Richard plot out various ways to make Bernie seem alive. The gag works stupendously at first, but soon, some other beach residents begin to wonder about “changes” in his “personality” and such.
It’s a bit ironic that the plot is parelled quite well by the film itself. It often seems as if we’re watching a lifeless comedy in spunky drag. At first, the trick works. This is supposed to be a ridiculous comedy. It’s supposed to be outrageously funny. I can clearly see myself choking on laughter if I were to take time and sit down to read the script upon which this is based. For the first forty-five minutes or so, we’re focused on what is going on in the script itself and the cheerfully goofy plot. As the story progresses the tale downgrades into more of an unconvincing, only mildly amusing bore. The poor, corny performances from McCarthy and Silverman were there all along, but they only stand out above everything else in the rising second act. Though revived by a sort of epilogue, I would struggle to explain how this decelerating comedy ended, even in a minimum of ten words. My disappointment of how dully the unique story was being handled, must have made me tune out during the last fifteen minutes. I started thinking of good ways for the film to end before the conclusion had occurred.
WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S had more than just some potential. It’s not a lack of interest from the audience that prohibits the film from succeeding. It’s a lack of interest from the cast and–occasionally–the crew. Come on now. Reading the plot, any fan of bizarre comedies wants to love this movie. We can’t with actors who joined the project for money. They look like actors, not characters or anything in between. This is the kind of film that had various chances to be a brilliant comedy, but disregarded many of those opportunities.