1993 / Director. Robert Klane.
Review by Jarret Ghan.
In the summer of 1989, a strange curiosity was unleashed on American audiences, WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S. A tongue-in-cheek black comedy about two New Yorkers, Richard (Jonathon Silverman) & Larry (Andrew McCarthy) who are invited to their boss Bernie Lomax’s (Terry Kiser) beach-house in The Hamptons after uncovering a major embezzling racket at the financial institution in which they work. The only hitch once they get there is that Bernie is dead but that won’t stop our protagonists from having the weekend of their lives. However to do so they just need to make everyone else around them believe that Bernie is still the life of the party, which consequently includes his killer. It’s easily one of the darker comedies to come out of the late eighties, helmed by Ted Kotcheff (First Blood, Wake In Fright) and penned by screenwriter Robert Klane (The Man With One Red Shoe, Walk Like A Man), it by right seemingly shouldn’t exist but thankfully does.
Fast-forward four years later, Tristar Pictures makes the bizarre decision to green-light a sequel. Clearly it’s not uncommon to want to cash in and capitalise on a successful film but that’s the thing ‘Weekend At Bernie’s’ was only a moderate box office hit and it had released four years prior. With that said how much more life could a studio drain from a film predominately about a dead guy puppeteered by two hapless blokes?
The answer, WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S 2. Screenwriter Robert Klane returns to not only author the sequel but gets the gig as director. Another unusual decision given Klane only had one other feature-film directing credit to his name, the 1978 Donna Summer vehicle ‘Thank God It’s Friday’, a disco extravaganza.
Set literally a day or two later after the events of the first film, we open with Richard & Larry having to identify Bernie’s body at the New York City Morgue. Almost immediately after the pair are dismissed from their jobs at the accountancy firm, under suspicion they had been involved in the embezzling scam. With a mere two week’s severance pay, Larry is quick to take personal retribution by using Bernie’s credits cards (that he obtained from the morgue) for lavish dinners and gifts. It isn’t long before Larry wants to up the ante and convinces Richard to help him claim a couple million Bernie has tied up in secret offshore accounts. Trouble is they’re not the only ones after Bernie’s fortune, two goons for hire have strict instructions and a curse upon them by a Voodoo Priestess to do find it too. They seem to have a little more luck at first by resurrecting Bernie’s body through a botched voodoo ritual though shortly after soon lose him in the subways of New York City. It isn’t long before Richard & Larry gain control of Bernie, pack him in a suitcase and take him to the United States Virgin Islands to track down the money. As if the two cursed thugs weren’t enough of a foil for our boys and their corpse, throw in Barry Bostwick’s character Arthur Hummel, a hard-nosed internal investigator convinced that pair were in cahoots with Bernie, who will stop at nothing to get his men.
The animated opening sequence truly sets the tone for the film, this time around it isn’t the borderline screwball come black comedy of the first, this one is a total farce. Sadly one that lacks sufficient laughs to make it anywhere near as memorable as the first film and may only appeal to people who haven't seen the original or are that big diehards of the first that they have wondered what came of Richard & Larry post the events of WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S.
Personally being one of the latter, I picked up on some interesting plot holes between the two films:
1) Where’s Gwen (Catherine Mary Stewart), Richard’s squeeze from the first film, at the close of the previous film she was on the beach wrapped around Richard. Now she was nowhere to be seen, heard or even mentioned in the slightest despite being set a day or two afterward.
2) How are we to believe that Larry’s a virgin given that it was pretty clear he was engaging in a little intercourse with a lady in the original?
Now, Mr Klane, suspension of disbelief is one thing but rewriting the Bernie mythology is another!
Normally when critiquing a film I’d be inclined to discuss some of the technical aspects behind the picture but let’s face it, it’s ‘Weekend At Bernie’s 2’. Instead I’m going to give five reasons you must see one of my guiltiest of cinematic pleasures (five that you won’t read in any other review):
1) A corpse that reanimates at the drop of a musical beat and shuffles about in a very nineties b-boy fashion with matching attire.
2) Hilarious yet bizarre implied beastility scene in an adult cinema with a chicken.
3) Wildly inappropriate “Oh my God. Look at the tits on that one” line from Larry.
4) Loads of ADR by over-the-top Jersey Shore sounding voice actors for incidental characters for no real good reason.
5) A ridiculous Bernie goes parasailing sequence in slow motion with stock footage and a giant rubber shark.
WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S is living proof that placing a dead body near a large body of water is neither a successful ongoing formula for hilarity nor box office glory. So while it shouldn't exist but for defiance of all practicality does, it commands your viewing possibly while you’re getting a decent buzz on.