Weekend at Bernie's (1989)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Farce, Buddy Film, Comedy of Errors  |   Release Date - Jul 5, 1989 (USA)  |   Run Time - 99 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Weekend at Bernie's is a jokey, popular curiosity and cultural reference that persists in the collective consciousness, despite staggering evidence of its insipid emptiness. The film that made Terry Kiser the most famous corpse in show biz demonstrates to what ludicrous lengths "high-concept comedy" can be bastardized. Audiences have developed an attitude toward it hovering between indignation and guilty comfort; people do like it, but they are quick to couch their approval in the language of kitsch, because no other perspective would be defensible. It's implied that screenwriter Robert Klane thinks his characters are brainless idiots, since they spend hours sitting next to a non-responsive companion without even considering that he might be deceased. What's a bit more insidious is that he reserves the same contempt for the audience, believing they will lap this up even if he does nothing to make it credible. Weekend at Bernie's is supposed to be a satire of social discourse, a wildly farcical depiction of the notion that people are so self-absorbed that they won't even notice if the person they're talking to is dead. At least, that would be the generous academic reading. But this film bends reality so vigorously that disbelief can't just be suspended; it must be expelled. Whether audiences are willing to do that depends on how far they let the comic energies of Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman carry them. And that may not be far when Kiser's comic inertia usually one-ups them.