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Case Number 07258: Small Claims Court

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Weekend At Bernie's

MGM // 1989 // 98 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // July 22nd, 2005

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All Rise...

Dead guys make Judge Patrick Naugle laugh. That's just the way it is and, damn it, he's not going to apologize.

Editor's Note

Our review of Weekend at Bernie's (1989) (Blu-ray), published June 4th, 2014, is also available.

The Charge

He may be dead, but he's the life of the party!

The Case

Larry Wilson (Andrew McCarthy, St. Elmo's Fire) and Richard Parker (Jonathan Silverman, Brighton Beach Memoirs) work hard for their boss, Bernie Lomax (Terry Kiser, Mannequin 2: On The Move). When Richard and Larry realize that someone's been stealing from Bernie's company, they quickly report their findings. Bernie rewards the two heroes with an invite to his fantastic seaside home for fun in the sun. What Larry and Richard don't know is that Bernie is the one who's been stealing from his company, and he plans on having them killed while they're relaxing at his beach house! All goes as planned until the hired mob hit man, Paulie (Don Calfa, Return of the Living Dead), plugs Bernie instead of his two house guests, leaving Richard and Larry minus one host! When Larry and Richard find Bernie's body, they decide to ride out the weekend by passing Bernie off as still living so they can continue partying and Richard can focus on wooing one of his beautiful coworkers, Gwen (Catherine Mary Stuart, Night of the Comet). Things really start to heat up when Paulie shows up to finish the already dead Bernie off!

Weekend At Bernie's falls into that it's-so-bad-it's-good category. How, exactly, are the filmmakers able to take a one joke premise and spread it across an hour and a half? Well, they can't—but it's not for a lack of trying. Weekend At Bernie's, a movie that, if released today would be panned by critics and long forgotten, was a hit when it was released in 1989; for some reason this movie resonated with audiences. Could it be that moviegoers also knew the trials and tribulations of passing off a corpse as a still living entity? Naaaaa. I just think everyone loves a good, violent crotch joke (and in that vein Weekend At Bernie's doesn't disappoint).

I remember seeing this movie when I was thirteen years old and loving it. Absolutely loving it. I also loved parachute pants and color-changing T-shirts, so my taste wasn't nearly as refined as it is today. When I revisited Weekend At Bernie's, I realized two things: a) The movie isn't as funny as when I was a kid, and b) Jonathan Silverman and Andrew McCarthy are the most interchangeable actors to ever share the silver screen.

The film belongs to Terry Kiser (who ended up being offed in a much less desirable way at Jason's hand in Friday The 13th Part VII: The New Blood), who plays the deceased Bernie with a smirk and sunglasses throughout the whole film. If nothing else, Kiser is able to make us believe that Bernie really is dead. Such a feat should not go without praise.

The gags in the film revolve almost solely around McCarthy and Silverman trying to make everyone believe Bernie is alive. Need to make everyone think Bernie's alive? Tie a string and pulley around his wrist to make him wave. This joke gets old, but at least a few funny bits are wrung before the cloth goes dry. One bit—where drunken, obnoxious party guests bust into Bernie's pad while the host lies dead on the couch—is humorous, if a tad unrealistic (the party guests are written as near-retarded imbeciles who can't see that Bernie is pushing up daisies).

As stated, the cast includes an uptight Jonathan Silverman and a cocky-looking Andrew McCarthy, or maybe it's the other way around. Ah, who cares? Are you really watching Weekend At Bernie's because you've got an Andrew McCarthy fetish? I think not. The whole point of a movie like this is to see a dead body get dragged behind a speedboat and tossed around like a rag doll in a kid's wagon (yes, that's the type of humor we're working with here). Weekend At Bernie's has enough of these gags for three dead-guy-being-passed-off-as-a-live-guy movies.

Is Weekend At Bernie's a great movie? Not by a long shot. And if you never caught it as a kid, then this "comedy" may have you heading straight for the Eject button on your DVD player. But Lord, I laughed in a few spots where I know I shouldn't have laughed. And for that, I may have to begrudgingly turn in my film reviewer's membership card.

Weekend At Bernie's is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen with an enhancement for 16x9 TV sets. If nothing else, I can recommend getting this disc just for the anamorphic upgrade missing from the original Artisan release. The film itself looks just okay—there are a few minor imperfections in the transfer and a small amount of dirt is present. Otherwise, the colors and black levels appear bright and solid. Overall this is a decent transfer of a mediocre movie.

The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Surround in English and Spanish. The soundtrack isn't much to write home about. Surround sounds are mostly absent and the bulk of the track is front heavy. A small amount of distortion can be heard from time to time, but nothing that should take away from the viewing of the film. Also included on this disc are English, Spanish, and French subtitles ('cause those French folks, they sure love Bernie!)

The only extra feature available on this edition of Weekend At Bernie's is a widescreen theatrical trailer for the film.

FYI: Though it's tempting, there's no need to catch the lackluster sequel, Weekend At Bernie's II.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 77

Perp Profile

Studio: MGM
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
• Comedy

Distinguishing Marks

• Theatrical Trailer


• IMDb

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