Weekend at Bernie's

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
Weekend at Bernie's Movie Poster Image
Irreverent dead-body comedy has plenty of iffy stuff.
  • PG-13
  • 1989
  • 97 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Few if any. Contract killing, insurance fraud, drug use, and drinking are themes, and no one but the hit man and Bernie experience negative consequences as a result of their behavior.

Positive Role Models & Representations

None to speak of. Murder, fraud, lying, defiling of a dead body, drinking, selfishness, and impolite lust all are on display. Drug use and sex are suggested but not seen. Larry takes dead Bernie's Rolex.

Violence

Bernie is murdered by lethal injection, then also strangled and shot by an increasingly puzzled hit man. The assassin comically stalks his targets, and the main characters engage in reckless boating, property destruction, and punching. Two men are felled by swift smacks to the head with a large log for big laughs.

Sex

Although there's no nudity, a woman appears in a minimal swimsuit, revealing most of her breasts and behind. No on-screen sex. A clothed woman rubs herself fervently against a clothed man and, under the table at dinner, places her foot on his genitals. Offscreen allusions to sex will go over the heads of most preteens and younger kids and include the suggestion that someone has satisfying sex with Bernie’s dead body. Sexually driven partying is rife. Two people who are falling in love kiss. 

Language

Language includes "damn," "goddamn," "bastard," "bitch," "ass," "s--t," "screw," "the old joystick," "Christ" (as an exclamation), "schmuck," and "horny." There may have been one "f--k," but it seems to have been intentionally muted. A young boy gives a character the finger.

Consumerism

The car brand Maserati is mentioned several times. A Porsche is noticeable. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Several characters smoke, many are seen drinking, and some are inebriated. The offscreen suggestion of cocaine use -- a man returns from the bathroom alert and wiping his nose -- will probably go unnoticed by kids under 14. 

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bygoodgirl November 10, 2015

a movie that puts you in a good movie.

I love this movie. it never gets old I mean it is an old movie but a classic. and you laugh watching each part. Jonathon Silver man was great in the movie cute... Continue reading
Adult Written byaidans1 September 12, 2015
a couple refrences to sex
Teen, 14 years old Written bymoviewatcherII February 7, 2015

Stupid movie

Tgere are uses of @$$, b!+©h, and $h!+. A man is killed 3 times. A woman touches a man's loins with her foot. It is implied that a woman had sex with a cor... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bycola January 4, 2016
I really liked this movie. I thought some parts were hilarious such as how everybody was talking to Bernie like he was alive because they thought he was and th... Continue reading

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?

  •  

Movie details

For kids who love comedy

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate