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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Films of the 80s: Weekend at Bernie's

An Appreciation by Noah Mallin

The 80s were a time of innocence, joy, and philandering bosses of vague sexuality that rip off their companies for mucho dinero. But enough about Michael Milken . The film at hand is Weekend at Bernie's, a 1989 sort-of classic that strains hard to be a Blake Edwards type farce about two nudniks who get invited to the boss's place on "Hampton Island", a sort of amalgam of the Hamptons and Fire Island, only to show up and find him dead. Plot contrivances lead to them faking his continued good health. Hilarity ensues.

Said nudniks are played by Jonathan Silverman as the uptight Mathew Broderick-y Richard and brat pack supremo Andrew McCarthy as icky conniving buddy Larry. McCarthy's performance is the more startling of the two, a full on Ratso Rizzo-voiced concoction of sleaze in a sport jacket that seems ported in from a distant acting class in Queens.

Really, the French do this sort of tasteless farce better. When you're reading subtitles you don't have time to think about things like oh, it's a hot weekend and isn't the dead guy starting to stink? or what, no rigor mortis? Terry Kisor who tellingly gives the standout performance as the titular dead boss, Bernie, lolls and drapes his way through the film like a pile of rags - marvelously hard to do. He probably would have chosen to play him as more of a stiff if he had known he would have to do the same routine in the sequel, Weekend at Bernie's II. Yes, it was that big a hit. The sequel was, of course, D.O.A.

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