Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Film Review: WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S (1989, Ted Kotcheff)

Stars: 3 of 5.
Running Time: 98 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Andrew McCarthy (MANNEQUIN, THE JOY LUCK CLUB), Jonathan Silverman (GIRLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN, CADDYSHACK II), Terry Kiser (FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 7: THE NEW BLOOD, FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM, MANNEQUIN 2: ON THE MOVE), Catherine Mary Stewart (THE APPLE, DUDES).
Tag-lines: "Bernie would be the perfect host, except for one small thing . . . he's dead. Now, he's the life of the party." That tag-line is a perfect example of what great, even epochal, tag-lines are all about.
Best one-liner: "What kind of a host invites you to his house for the weekend and dies on you?" What kind of host, indeed.

WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S is kiiiiind of a bad movie. So is CAPTAIN RON. But that doesn't make them any less epochal. Allow me to explain. First, let's toss words like 'bad' and 'good' out the window. Now that that's out of the way, let me ask you this, fancy-pants: Did you know that Robert Klane (writer of BERNIE'S, writer/director of BERNIE'S II, writer of EUROPEAN VACATION, and overall purveyor of third-rate 80's entertainment) has succeeded where ALFRED HITCHCOCK failed? That's right, I just said that Robert Klane one-upped the venerable Mr. Hitchcock. When? Let's talk THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY. Not really settin' the world on fire, is it? Why? Well, Hitch figured that hilarity would ensue if we had this corpse turning up all over the place, and people would try to hide it and freak out and it would be the funniest thing ever. Well, it wasn't. Plus, Philip Truex is no Terry Kiser. More on that later. Anyway, this Klane guy comes along and realizes that a corpse popping up everywhere isn't in and of itself FUNNY, per se. But what if only two characters knew it was a corpse? And what if they had to PRETEND that he was still alive? And what if the joke was how easy they were finding it to convince dim-witted beach-types of Bernie's vitality? Now that sounds like 98 minutes of nonstop hilarity to me. Pass the glue!

LET

THE

WHACKINESS

COMMENCE.

Plus this thing was directed by Ted Kotcheff, who directed FIRST BLOOD and unleashed Rambo upon this world, so just think about that for a minute. And no one can deny that Terry Kiser, as the title character, is absolutely brilliant. I'm serious. His sheer malleability and dead-weight timing reveals a talent that perhaps better-suited to the days of Chaplin and W.C. Fields. Holy shit, I just had an idea. What if there'd been a silent/early sound version of this starring W.C. as Bernie and Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton as Silverman and McCarthy, respectively. Hot damn! See, that's what I mean when I say epochal!

Side note: Check out the Polish theatrical poster, which may be the most amazingly obtuse bit of film marketing I've ever seen.



-Sean Gill

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