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‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ (PG-13)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 06, 1989

Usually, Bernie is the life of the party, laughing, pouring drinks, everybody's pal. But this weekend, Bernie is off his form. His eyes are glassy, his energy is low and the patented Bernie smile isn't much in evidence. He seems, well, dead. In fact, he is dead.

And you thought your friends were boring.

"Weekend at Bernie's" is an unfettered but uninspired one-joke movie about a pair of ambitious computer specialists -- played by Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman -- who, while working at an insurance firm, stumble onto a plot to defraud the company out of millions of dollars. Thinking that this discovery will spring them to the top of the corporate pile, they rush to inform their boss -- the notorious Bernie (Terry Kiser) -- who invites them to his house on Hampton Island for the Labor Day weekend to go over the figures. In truth, it's Bernie who's skimming off the top and the invitation is only the first move in his plan to bump the boys off.

Bernie's mob pals have a different scheme, though -- one calling for Bernie to sleep the big sleep. When the boys arrive, primed and ready for fun at Bernie's pleasure palace, they find their host smooching his desk blotter. Richard (Silverman), the nicer of the two, wants to call the cops. But Larry (McCarthy), the not-nice one, doesn't see any reason why this should cramp their style. Plus, he says, what would they tell them anyhow?

The rest of the film is centered around the 1,001 rude and indecorous things Larry and Richard do with Bernie's corpse, and clearly some ingenuity has been used to conjure new wrinkles in this much-traveled routine. Most of them score rather low on the scale. But a few -- such as the scene in which they staple his toupee in place -- are indecently funny, and with Ted Kotcheff directing, one gag is barely completed before another is begun. There's some originality, too, in the notion of setting a black comic farce against the sunny decadence of this millionaire's playground, but the idea is played out coarsely, with too many bimbos and too many drug jokes. The stars -- including, as Richard's love interest, Catherine Mary Stewart -- come off as bimbos too, and if I were McCarthy and Silverman, I'd be nervous. Actors may die a thousand deaths, but being upstaged by a corpse? Now that's dying.

"Weekend at Bernie's" contains some adult material.

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