“What kind of host invites you to his house for the weekend and dies on you?”
Calvin Harris famously once declared that it was acceptable in the eighties and I for one agree with him. Weekend at Bernie’s is an 80’s cultural icon, adored by many, loathed by few (mainly critics). Produced for $15 million and earning just over $30 million in the box office, the success spawned a lesser known sequel in 1993. Good or bad 80’s movies are now firmly viewed through rose tinted glasses. I for one embrace the rose scented nostalgia and prepare myself for some 80’s tomfoolery, always.
The movie lets us piggyback on the lives of two hapless young men, Larry and Richard (played by Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman) who work for an insurance company. While working on the weekend, the two men discover that someone has been stealing from the company. Enter Bernie (Terry Kiser) their boss, smooth as chocolate and bearing a moustache that only Tom Selleck himself could beat. Bernie in fact is a thief and has been embezzling money from the company for a seemingly long period. Once the the two men take their findings to Bernie he decides they have to be killed and invites them to his summer home (Hamptons Island). Unfortunately for Bernie someone kills him first.
Upon arriving on the island Larry and Richard discover Bernie’s body. Obviously frightened, they prop Bernie up on the sofa. Just then an impromptu party floats in and no one notices that Bernie is all kinds of dead (Bernie is sporting some killer shades). Cue a weekend of shenanigans were Bernie is dragged throughout the island. Larry and Richard desperately try to conceal Bernie’s death until they can find out who’s trying to kill them.
Throughout the movie I found myself questioning the intelligence of everyone. It’s just not plausible that someone would not realise Bernie was dead. During the second half of the movie Larry is constantly swatting flies from Bernie and still nothing. Sure the drinks, drugs and sex would certainly be enough to slow down a small elephant but would that even stop the basic of functions i.e. your nose from carrying out precisely what it was designed for.
The problem with this movie is that it’s solely based on one joke, which is dragged out to fill 90 minutes. Now that’s not to say Weekend at Bernie’s hasn’t got some laugh out loud parts. One of the films funniest parts actually doesn’t even have Bernie in shot. Bernie’s mistress calls at the summer house, finding Larry and Richard. Expecting to be rumbled the guys point the lady in the direction of Bernie’s bedroom. The anticipated scream never arrives, sometime later she descends the stairs with a sly satisfied smirk declaring “he’s never been better”, we all know what’s implied. That’s what makes this scene work because it doesn’t have to be said. A lot of the gags here seem to be forced, it feels as if we’re being spoon fed as if the writers don’t trust us, the audience, enough to get the punchline.
Character wise this movie wasn’t great, I found Larry to be very irritating, so irritating actually that I was rooting for his demise. All the characters were just really stupid, Richard was intended to be the intelligent one (he did realise money was being stole), yet he was persuaded to keep playing along with Larry’s plan. Terry Kiser as Bernie by far was the standout and I was enraged when he was killed 20 minutes in. An alive Bernie would have actually added more to the movie.
Weekend at Bernie’s has to be taken with your tongue firmly ensconced in cheek. If there are such things as 80’s movie marathon parties this would definitely be a big part of mine.
Stephen McDonnell – Follow me on Twitter