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Weekend at Bernie's
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The comedic device of trying to hide the fact that someone has died from everyone else involved in the bit goes back to the origins of farce and vaudeville, but Weekend at Bernie’s must be the first time anyone has tried to build an entire movie around this one piece of business. Blake Edwards, and maybe Mel Brooks, could probably milk a sequence like this for up to ten or twelve minutes, but an entire movie?  Ah, but IF ONLY Weekend at Bernie’s was a ten-minute gag stretched out for a 97 min. It’s not. It's so so SO much more tedious than that. 

Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman play two young low-level insurance company employees who get invited to the weekend beach house of their boss, Bernie (Terry Kiser) who secretly wants to murder them. However, it’s Bernie who gets killed. And when the boys discover that none of the party people who live on the beach notice that Bernie is dead, they attempt to conceal his demise. I say, “they attempt to conceal his demise,” rather than, “they must attempt to conceal his demise,” because there is no “must” in this picture. Screenwriter Robert Klane (Where’s Poppa?, The Man with One Red Shoe, National Lampoon's European Vacation) doesn’t bother to create any stakes in this narrative. The two boys (both played as obnoxious idiots with zero charm) are given no reason not to just call the police and report their boss's death. Yes, there is a hitman running around. Yes, there is a beautiful girl one of the boys wants to impress. But these two factors are never made into actual obstacles that would necessitate the charade of pretending that Bernie isn’t dead. Worse, there are actually fewer guys-trying-to-pretended-a-dead-guy-isn’t-dead gag sequences in this movie than in any comedy I’ve seen that employs this device. Comical situations in which the boys frantically try to keep up appearances simply don’t happen very much here. Instead, Bernie just gets dragged around like a gangly albatross and used occasionally as a comical prop—but the joke is almost always just that he’s dead, not than he’s dead and they must try to make it look like he’s alive. Baffling!

The film was directed by the Bulgarian-Canadian film, TV, and theater director Ted Kotcheff, who’d made quite a name for himself in the late ’70s and early ‘80s with hits like the Australian outback psychological thriller Wake in Fright (1971), The Canadian comedy The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974), and the American post-Vietnam action dramas First Blood (1982), and Uncommon Valor (1983). Kotcheff’s career took an unexpected turn towards comedies in the late ‘80s—the winning Joshua Then and Now (1985) and the ill-advised His Girl Friday remake Switching Channels (1988)—with Bernie’s being the most successful of this lot. It was such a box office hit it spawned a sequel: Weekend at Bernie's II (1993) written and directed by Klane. The sequel, which reunited the main cast, did not meet with the same rapturous audience and inexplicably forgiving critical response as this absolute dud of a movie.

Twitter Capsule:
Two lame dudes discover their boss has been murdered and try to keep up the appearance that he's still alive. If that sounds like 10 minute Blake Edwards sequence stretched out to feature-length, it's oh so much worse!

Directed by Ted Kotcheff
Produced by Victor Drai

Written by Robert Klane

With: Andrew McCarthy, Jonathan Silverman, Catherine Mary Stewart, Terry Kiser, Don Calfa, Catherine Parks, Eloise DeJoria, Gregory Salata, Louis Giambalvo, Ted Kotcheff, and Skeet Ulrich

Cinematography: François Protat
Editing: Joan E. Chapman
Music: Andy Summers

Runtime: 97 min
Release Date: 05 July 1989
Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1