It sounded like a great weekend away at their boss Bernie's beachside pleasure palace. But when working stiffs Larry and Richard arrive to find a real stiff - their murdered boss - they're forced to concoct a crazy scheme to avoid being implicated and/or dead themselves! With Bernie propped up and his death effectively covered up, Richard and Larry's weekend getaway becomes exactly that as they dodge curious babes, a curtain of bullets and one confused hit man.
I wonder if character actor Terry Kiser realizes that he might have played the most famous corpse in the history of comedy. Not that actors are lining up to play the deceased, but no one has ever played dead better than Terry Kiser, as 'Weekend at Bernie's' totally relies on him for its success. When I say Kiser gives a lifeless performance here, it's the highest of compliments.
Although it came out right at the tail end of the 1980s, there are few more quintessential 80s films than 'Weekend at Bernie's', with its period clothing, buddy-comedy pairing (almost every 80s comedy had a straight-laced guy and his devil-may-care pal), and a paper-thin storyline (80s comedies rarely tried to have deep meaning – they were just out to entertain). What is amazing is that this little film, which was more or less rejected by moviegoers in theaters (it never finished higher than eighth at the box office during its U.S. theatrical run) went on to become such a cult favorite. Credit that one to home video, as 'Weekend at Bernie's' came out right in the middle of the VHS boom, and was the go-to title for many high school and college kids on a Friday night.
The plot, for those few of you not that familiar with the premise is a rather simple and silly one. Andrew McCarthy (as "Larry") and Jonathan Silverman (as "Richard") play a couple of young employees for an insurance corporation who realize their company has been defrauded out of millions. When they take this to their boss, Bernie Lomax (Terry Kiser), he thanks them by inviting the duo to his private beach home for the weekend. Unbeknownst to Larry and Richard, he's really inviting them so he can have them killed – as it's actually Bernie whose been taking the money from his own company. However, the mob boss whom Bernie asks to kill the boys decides that Bernie has become too sloppy and decides to off him instead. Richard and Jonathan find Bernie's dead body in his house, but are shocked that no one else seems to notice that he's actually dead. Not wanting to spoil their fun weekend, the boys decide to see if they can pass off Bernie as alive for the next couple of days so they can enjoy all the perks of his lifestyle. There's also a few subplots about a co-worker (played by Catherine Mary Stewart) Richard is fond of, as well as a mob hitman (the one who killed Bernie, played by Don Calfa) who thinks he botched the job when he sees Bernie seemingly 'alive' – but make no mistake, the real fun here is between the three leads.
Yes, the premise is insanely stupid, but it's really just an excuse for the film's second half, in which Bernie's body is dropped, dragged, thrown, or smashed into various objects and situations. Yes, they even go for the obvious necrophilia joke, as one of Bernie's girlfriends (who is also the girlfriend of the mob boss) comes to spend an evening with Bernie and doesn't notice anything different about him.
I remember being a fan of 'Weekend at Bernie's' (like most, I didn't see it until it came out on VHS), but hadn't watched the movie in a long time. Viewing it again all these years later, I'm not really sure what I found so appealing about it. Perhaps it's because comedy of the modern age is far more risqué than it's ever been (thank you Kevin Smith and Judd Apatow), but 'Weekend at Bernie's' now seems rather tame and less side-splittingly funny than I remember it.
However, this release is really all about nostalgia and, although it might not win many new fans over, those who loved the film back then will be happy to see a decently rendered version of it now available in HD. While I can't quite recommend the film the way I once may have, it's certainly worth going back and seeing again on Blu-ray if you have fond memories of it.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Weekend at Bernie's' arrives on Blu-ray in an eco-friendly Elite keepcase, which houses the single, 25GB disc and no inserts. There's no main menu at all on the Blu-ray, which – after the studio logo – just begins to play the film. There is, however, a pop-up menu that can be used for access to audio and subtitle options, scene selection, and to view the movie's trailer (the only extra).
The Blu-ray has been encoded for Region A only.
MGM/Fox's 1080p transfer is proof of how not messing around too much can result in a good thing. Too often, we see extra attention paid to the transfer of a 'big' movie, and the result is something that's either over-DNR'd or screws up the original theatrical look of the film. Here, it appears as if they did very little in terms of DNR or any other type of picture manipulation, and – surprise – the movie looks pretty good. Its biggest problem is that there's still a ton of small flecks of white and black dirt on the print, but otherwise it's a very pleasant picture. While the image isn't razor sharp, it still has a good deal of detail, with properly balanced skin tones and contrast throughout. Black levels are also pretty good. Some scenes still lean on the 'soft' side of things, but overall I can't imagine fans will be upset with what they get here.
The Blu-ray offers a English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track that, while limited to two speakers, still supplies pretty good job of separation and distinctness throughout. About the only issue with the audio is that, at times, the spoken dialogue tends to come off as just slightly a bit muted or muddy – or at least at a level a little lower than the rest of the soundtrack. However, for a lossless 2.0 track, this does its job without too many issues, and no significant or noticeable glitches.
In addition to the lossless 2.0 English track, the Blu-ray also contains a Spanish Dolby Digital mono track. Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish and French.
While not nearly as funny as I remember it when I saw it in the late 1980s, there's still a charm about 'Weekend at Bernie's' that's hard to resist. It's by no means a great movie (and perhaps not even a good one), but it does remind one of a time when films geared toward the mainstream didn't try to be too complex…they just tried to be fun. While the movie gets a decent upgrade to HD, the lack of extras make this disc worthwhile only to those who fondly remember the film. For Fans Only.