'Weekend at Bernie's': THR's 1989 Review

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Jonathan Silverman, Terry Kiser and Andrew McCarthy in 'Weekend at Bernie's.'
'Bernie's' is good old, knock-down slapstick with just the right dose of cruelty thrown in.

On July 5, 1989, 20th Century Fox unveiled Ted Kotcheff's dark comedy Weekend at Bernie's in theaters. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below: 

If it can survive the first weekend, Weekend at Bernie's may kill off some fairly lively returns for 20th Century Fox. Teens and 20-year-olds who like their slapstick on the black side should lay down some positive word of mouth on this crazy comedy. 

Not only must Bernie's survive its initial foray without a big-name cast or a digit after its moniker, it must survive its own opening half-hour, as dead an introductory heap as has ever been patched together. But once this Robert Klane-written comedy gets its expositional marks set, it sails off into engagingly wacky and deliciously dark comic waters. 

Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman star as an odd-couple duo, buddies and Bob Cratchit-like co-workers at a Manhattan insurance agency, where they do daily struggle against the Big Apple on their bare starting salaries. McCarthy is a cocky, cut-corners type, while Silverman is a shy/dot-all-the-i's type. 

Between them, they manage to uncover a $2 million insurance fraud. As a reward for their enterprise, they're invited by their playboy boss (Terry Kiser) to spend Labor Day Weekend at his beach house in the Hamptons. 

It's at the beach house where the fun starts (for the audience, too), as McCarthy and Silverman jump into a Hugh Hefner-style land of weekend partying. G-string babes, champagne-full bars, eye-snapping scenery: It's another world from McCarthy's one-room apartment hole and Silverman's bedroom digs at his parents' home. 

But like most business college grads, McCarthy and Silverman are really wet behind the ears. Kiser is not your typical boss; in fact, he's downright nettled that they've uncovered the fraud, particularly since it was of his own making. He decides to wrong their right, namely, to have the two young idiots bumped off. 

At the seaside, Bernie's dives into a fast-stroking Blake Edwards mode of crazy slapstick and knock-down farce. Director Ted Kotcheff loads the sight gags with proper firepower, detonating Klane's pleasingly sick setups with appropriate blast. Ironically, Kiser is the farcical star — even though he's a corpse throughout most of the movie. But with his rigor-mortised smirk and Ray-Ban shades, he's one lively stiff.

Subplots ebb and tide, including comic gangsters and a comely collegian (Catherine Mary Stewart) for whom Silverman pines, but mainly Bernie's is good old, knock-down slapstick with just the right dose of cruelty thrown in. — Duane Byrge, originally published on June 26, 1989.

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