A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Weekend at Bernie's is an '80s comedy that treats death with an irreverence that may disturb sensitive younger children. Two bickering, opportunistic junior executives party while a hit man stalks their dead boss.There's lots of cynicism and selfishness, but the movie stands out thanks to both clever dialogue (which underscores the self-absorption) and a main character -- a likable dead body -- that's trussed, propped up, and otherwise manipulated to seem alive, active, and having a good time. The violence is largely slapstick, bloodless, and undercut by wisecracking designed to assure viewers that no one was actually hurt in the making of the movie. Expect lots of social drinking, suggested but unseen drug use, some smoking, language (including "s--t"), sexually motivated plotting, sexual innuendo, kissing, and clothed embraces. The main characters ogle bikini-ed bodies.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Bernie (Terry Kiser) is an unscrupulous insurance mogul who learns that his minor executives, Larry (Andrew McCarthy) and Richard (Jonathan Silverman), have stumbled upon his embezzlement scheme. Bernie invites them for a weekend at his posh beach house, where he has arranged for them to be killed. But the hit man kills Bernie instead, and when the witless executives discover his body, they postpone notifying the authorities in favor of enjoying their weekend at the beach undisturbed by a murder investigation. The house fills with partygoers, and the duo endeavors to keep Bernie "alive" by propping him up and carrying him around. Dead-body shtick ensues as Kiser, in sunglasses and a smirk, portrays the erstwhile Bernie dragging behind a speedboat, hosting a party, and bouncing off inanimate objects with "deadly" grace and wit. Eventually the guys unravel Bernie's plot and figure they're next on the hit list. Adding to the comic mix, Richard pursues romance between puppeteering Bernie and evading peril.
Is it any good?
When physical comedies work, as this one often does, you can forgive lapses in plot and credibility. Tweens and teens might enjoy watching Silverman and McCarthy mugging like silent movie actors in the effort to keep up with the stiff who's stealing every scene. And the stunts are cartoonish enough to assuage the ick factor that a more realistic approach would elicit.
Kiser and company are undeniably funny, which helps set a tone that undercuts any anxiety that bad guys with guns can sometimes engender. Plus, the killer here is probably too caricatured to pose any true menace. Funny -- very funny -- may trump worry here.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why, if it's usually sad when people die, we end up laughing so much at Bernie, who's dead? Are there any subjects that can't be made funny?
Do the filmmakers want you to believe that the events of the film are true or could happen? At whom do you think the movie is aimed?
As partygoers accept the dead Bernie as alive, does it seem as if the filmmakers are commenting on how much drinking can impair judgment?