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Film / Weekend at Bernie's

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"What kind of a host invites you to his house for the weekend and dies on you?"

A 1989 comedy film in which junior actuaries Larry Wilson (Andrew McCarthy) and Richard Parker (Jonathan Silverman) get duplicitously invited by their scheming boss Bernie Lomax (Terry Kiser) to his fancy Long Island beach home for the weekend. Hilarity Ensues when Bernie is murdered (by someone else) and circumstances force the hapless duo to lug his corpse around, pretending he is still alive.

Unsurprisingly, the film's title was originally used as the name for the trope Of Corpse He's Alive.

A sequel was released in 1993 (tag-line: "Bernie's back ... and he's still dead!"), which is even more ridiculous than the original thanks to the addition of voodoo.

The first film was directed by Ted Kotcheff (yes, he of First Blood fame). Robert Klane wrote the screenplay for both films and also directed the sequel.

Contains the following tropes:

  • Ambiguously Jewish: Richard. Not only is he played by a Jewish actor, he's a neurotic New Yorker whose choice of venue for a date with Gwen is a Jewish-Chinese fusion restaurant.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Vito's justification for having Bernie killed.
    Vito: (to Paulie) Forget the accident with the two guys. Take care of Lomax. He's gotten too careless, too greedy... and besides... he's screwing my girlfriend.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Larry and Richard carry Bernie's corpse around and make it move like a ragdoll without it ever showing any signs of rigor mortis or putrefaction.
  • Asshole Victim: Bernie himself. He was a Corrupt Corporate Executive who was planning on killing the protagonists for unknowingly discovering his scheme, but the mafioso he was working for decided that Bernie himself was the one who needed to be taken care of.
    Richard: I actually felt sorry for you, you rat shit!
  • Beach Bury: The last we see of Bernie, he's "agreed" to let the Bratty Half-Pint bury him in this fashion.
  • Black Comedy: What else would you expect from a movie where two guys carry around their boss's corpse while trying to make it look like he's still alive?
  • Blatant Lies: At the climax, the hitman finally catches up with them and shoots Bernie six times... then looks up and sees three witnesses. Oh, Crap!.
    Richard: I didn't see anything! I was looking at my watch!
    Larry: I'm blind!
  • Bratty Half-Pint: The bratty kid obsessed with burying Bernie's body, who gives the boys the finger at one point.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When the boys find the letter Bernie wrote up explaining their deaths as a murder suicide because Larry got a sex change only for Richard to fall out of love with him, Larry is distraught. ...because what will this say about him if word gets out he got a sex change? It's Richard who has to remind him that (A) this letter hasn't been released to the public and (B) nobody is going to have a sex change operation in the first place.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The protagonists were unaware of it, but Bernie was the one behind the insurance fraud that was going on in their company.
  • Creator In-Joke: The film's director Ted Kotcheff makes a couple of nods towards his involvement in the Rambo franchise, name-dropping the eponymous hero, and with the guy playing Lomax's gardener, who was also the main villain in the second Rambo film, wearing a very similar outfit.
  • Death as Comedy: The whole plot of the movie, two guys dragging their late boss's body around and making it look like he's still alive.
  • Director Allusion: After knocking out two guys who he thinks have come to kill Bernie (they are in fact the domestic staff, but he doesn't know that), Richard sarcastically addresses Larry as "Rambo".
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Shortly after Bernie's death, a young, blonde, busty woman comes into his house wearing a teeny bikini and asks the two male protagonists if they've seen Bernie. She wants to know if the beach party is still on. She has no idea that the boys — and the audience, most likely — are staring at her.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Richard in his single-minded romantic pursuit of Gwen.
  • Dramatic Irony: Larry and Richard find a message on Bernie's answering machine where he asks Paulie to kill them, but only if he's not nearby to prevent him from being implicated in the crime. So to keep themselves alive, they decide to drag Bernie's corpse around with them and pretend he's not dead. Unknown to them, but not the audience, Paulie was actually following orders from his boss Vito to kill Bernie and only Bernie, had already done so, and was planning to leave the island without further incident until the duo's antics convinced him Bernie was still alive. When one factors in Paulie's increasing derangement at his target apparently not staying dead, Larry and Richard pretending Bernie was still alive accomplished the exact opposite of what they set out to do.
  • Footsie Under the Table: Tina shoves her foot into Bernie's crotch at the dinner scene.
  • Foreign Cuss Word: Just before Paulie shoots Bernie, he says "cornuto", an Italian insult that implies the other person is a cuckold — and that the primary reason the hit was called in the first place was that Bernie was sleeping with a mobster's girlfriend.
  • Go Out with a Smile: Paulie kills Bernie with a drug overdose that kills him quickly and leaves a pleasant smirk on his face.
    Paulie: Quite a ride, huh Bern?
  • Groin Attack: Paulie's stalking the boys through the house to the tune of "Vissi d'arte", kicks Bernie's legs aside just as the aria reaches its climax (2:35), only for one of his heels to spring back into Paulie's crotch.
    Paulie: YOU KICKED ME YOU BASTARD! [shoots corpse, again] Shit! Out of bullets!
  • He Knows Too Much: When Bernie's actuaries Larry and Richard discovered insurance fraud and told them they were planning to expose it with the hopes of getting promoted in doing so, Bernie (who was behind the fraud) asks his boss Vito to assassinate the two. Vito decides Bernie is getting too greedy and sloppy and has Bernie killed instead.
  • Ho Yay: Between Larry and Richard; it's noticed by Bernie. Also, a woman at Bernie's party acknowledges the ho yay in the Sherlock Holmes stories, to the point where she is writing a book about Holmes and Watson being "secretly married". It's also invoked in the original "suicide note" written by Bernie. He was originally going to claim that Larry stole the money so he could have a sex change operation. And live with Richard as his lover.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: This is exactly why Bernie winds up in the state he's in for most of the film; he tries to get the protagonists killed by the mob, but the mob winds up murdering him and staging it as a suicide.
  • Hope Spot: After missing the ferry, Larry realizes that they have another way off the island: Bernie's speedboat. After a few calamities, including jumping a wake and Bernie water skiing, they make their way out of the channel and away from the island. And then...
    (the engine suddenly cuts out)
    Larry: What are you doing?
    Richard: I haven't got a clue.
    (he works the throttle, then checks the gauges and—)
    Richard: I don't believe this.
    Larry: What?
    Richard: Lar... we're outta gas.
  • Hypocrite:
    • When Larry is about to smoke a cigarette in Bernie's office, Bernie (who is smoking away himself) objects "No smoking." Larry does immediately put it away.
    • Tina, who is in a relationship with Vito, is having an affair with Bernie and gets enraged when she suspects Bernie's cheating on her.
  • I Love the Dead: Things turned really strange when Tina, one of Bernie's lovers who came to argue with him, and ended up having sex with him. And she claimed it was the best they'd ever had. And he was dead. It's implied that the drug overdose Paulie gives Bernie ends up giving him an erection even as it kills him. And, of course, with rigor mortis setting in... Larry is not impressed. (This becomes a Call-Back in the second film, where it's revealed Larry's a virgin.)
    Larry: How do you like that? The guy gets laid more dead than I do alive.
  • Irishman and a Jew: While there is no indication from their Anglo-Saxon surnames "Wilson" and "Parker", the protagonists conform to some extent to these stereotypes- Larry is a confident, outgoing, booze-swilling and not-too-bright merrymaker (who takes to praying the "Hail Mary" under duress and is outright confirmed as Catholic in the sequel), whilst Richard is neurotic and constantly aghast at the horrible things happening around him. Larry's aggressive pursuit of the fairer sex seems like it is in contradiction to the usual stereotype of the prudish Irishman, but he bemoans that "(Bernie) gets laid more dead than I do alive" and in the sequel admits he's a virgin. He just feels it's a blow to his manly pride to admit it.
    • Richard's New York Judaism is also strongly implied by his choice of date venue with Gwen: a Jewish-Chinese fusion restaurant called "Hymie's Hunan" with sweet-and-sour matzo balls on the menu.
  • It's All About Me: The Central Theme, Played for Laughs. EVERY ONE of Bernie's snob neighbors is so self-absorbed they fail to realize that him being oddly limp, quiet, and unresponsive means he is dead. Richard figures it out almost immediately, as do the two beat cops who find him on the subway in the second movie. Larry's first reaction - who hopes to somehow climb to Bernie's social standing - is to complain about how his weekend has now been ruined.
    Larry: I don't understand why he couldn't wait until Monday to kill himself.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: The mob hitman shoots Bernie six times with a revolver and then goes to shoot Larry, Richard, and Gwen, only for the gun to be predictably empty. However, he quickly reveals that he's carrying a second gun and starts shooting with that instead.
  • Jaw Drop: Larry and Richard are shocked that none of the party-goers realize that Bernie is dead. The two get over it quickly.
  • The Mafia: Bernie is involved with them, and asks them to kill the protagonists, setting the plot into motion.
  • Mistaken for Murderer: It's a fear of this that prevents the first attempt to call the police about Bernie's death.
  • Moral Myopia: Tina is outraged at Bernie for apparently cheating on her... even though she's cheating on her boyfriend Vito with Bernie.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Part of why Vito has Bernie killed is because Bernie's having an affair with his girlfriend Tina. The other part is because Bernie was in serious danger of getting caught.
  • Mythology Gag: Weekend at Bernie's opens with Jermaine Stewart's "Hot & Cold" which was the Working Title for the movie.
  • Naughty Under the Table: Courtesy of Tina shoving her foot in Bernie's crotch right in front of Vito who's the former's boyfriend and the latter's boss.
  • No Dead Body Poops: As is common in movies like this, Bernie evidently doesn't smell like he died within the past 24 hours.
  • Of Corpse He's Alive: The plot formerly known as Weekend at Bernie's. It also Codified the trope as being a bit of an Idiot Ball, although it's indeed an understandable one due to a case of both our protagonists being Locked Out of the Loop as well as a case of Poor Communication Kills. For context, Richard and Larry find Bernie dead of an apparent drug overdose, then find a recorded message on the answering machine ordering a hit on them, but Bernie specifically told the hitman not to kill them if he (Bernie) was anywhere near them, so that he could have an alibi. The two then decide (well more-so Larry, as Richard objected to the idea from the start) to pretend Bernie is alive for protection until they can get off the island. However, unknown to them, the hitman in question actually had higher orders to kill Bernie and only Bernie, having disregarded Bernie's own personal request for a hit and, after having done away with the guy, was just going to leave the island peacefully. Therefore, while the whole act was indeed an understandable (albeit a morbid and rather ridiculous) choice, all dragging Bernie's corpse around did was instead freak the hitman out until he eventually lost his mind, going so far as to unceremoniously shoot Bernie repeatedly (six times to be exact) so as to make sure he was dead, and then turned his gun to our protagonists to kill them for witnessing the shooting.
    • Oh, and it also indirectly proves that every single one of Bernie's friends is a shallow asshole. Especially his girlfriend(s), one of whom has a whale of a time (unknowingly) having sex with his dead body.
    • Not that Larry's much better; he's more focussed on all the luxuries in Bernie's house. Richard is the only person in the entire movie to figure it out without having it shoved in his face.
  • Police Are Useless: Assumed by the protagonists during the first attempt to contact them that the police would blame them, and not look at the evidence (proof they had only just taken a boat to the island, lack of a reasonable motive, etc)
  • Refuge in Audacity: May as well be called "Refuge in Audacity: The Movie"! The story is basically these two boys passing off a corpse as a living person on sheer, comical luck that no one suspects he's dead.
  • Rule of Funny: Certain facts about corpses are cheerfully ignored.
  • Sanity Slippage: Paulie the hitman, who gets dragged away in a straitjacket at the end, screaming that Bernie is still alive.
  • Token Romance: While it was in no way considered a bad thing, the whole romance subplot between Richard and Gwen could be cut from the film without anything feeling out of place. Especially when you consider that Gwen never gets involved with Richard and Larry's Of Corpse He's Alive antics with Bernie.
  • Trans Equals Gay: Invoked by Bernie, who writes a fake suicide note claiming that Larry stole the money so that he could afford a sex change operation and live with Richard as his lover.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Not only does the bratty kid seems too obsessed with burying Bernie's body, but he also flips Richard and Larry the bird after scaring them with a toy gun.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Bernie is popular with everyone at the island, and even the protagonists think he's a pretty Nice Guy before finding out about his corruption.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Why Vito has Paulie kill Bernie instead of killing Richard and Larry; Bernie was getting too greedy, and got sloppy as a result — hence him getting caught by two losers. Oh, and he was also sleeping with Vito's girlfriend Tina.

The sequel contains:

  • Accidental Pervert: Bernie, while getting dragged across the beach by a parasail rope, grabs two girls' bikini tops and leaves them on Hummel.
  • All Men Are Perverts: Hummel uses his camera to snap a few pictures of some girls in bikinis.
  • Animated Credits Opening: It's a pretty mediocre one, though.
  • Artifact Title: The sequel takes place on neither the weekend (possibly given Richard and Larry were fired on a Monday and immediately went to look for Bernie's money which took no more than two days) or at Bernie's place (the setting instead is located on the Virgin Islands).
  • The Dead Can Dance: But only when there's music playing, due to an Imperfect Ritual. It inspired the whole "Moving like Bernie" dance craze.
  • Denser and Wackier: This film is less realistic, having zombies and voodoo-magic in it.
  • Forced Transformation: The two bad guys are turned into goats by the end of the film, and are stuck being dragged around by Bernie.
  • Hello Again, Officer: Hummel gets arrested by the same officer twice.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: Used to turn Bernie into a somewhat ambulatory zombie.
  • Immediate Sequel: Weekend at Bernie's II, despite its four-year gap, begins on the Monday after that crazy weekend where Richard and Larry drop off Bernie's body at the New York Morgue.
  • Imperfect Ritual: The two bad guys were given instructions on how to re-animate Bernie so he could lead them to a buried treasure. However, they performed the ritual in a public bathroom, and a key element - a live chicken - escaped (and was implied to have been... appropriated... by a man in an adult theatre), so they used the pigeon when they should have used the chicken...
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: The luckless Hummel gets arrested (three times!) and has something close to a nervous breakdown thanks to encounters with Bernie... all without the heroes being any the wiser.
  • Made of Iron: Bernie's body gets shot in the head with a harpoon and chewed on by a shark. By the end of the movie, there's no scratch on him. Well, except for the harpoon still being in his head.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Bernie ends up a Voodoo Zombie. Sort of. The two bad guys screwed up the ritual that was supposed to fully revive him, so now he can only move when music is playing.
    Larry: Swim with the fishes, you zombie bastard!
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The island's Chief of Police is a friendly and reasonable guy. When Hummel claims he saw Bernie, he checks in with the New York authorities and confirms his death. He then personally walks him out, encourages him to relax and enjoy his time on the island. After the third time he got arrested for endangering the passengers of a tourist submarine (he freaks out after seeing Bernie underwater), he (reasonably) decides to deport him. When he actually sees Bernie for himself, he chases them to the Mobu and places her and her gun-toting clients under arrest and lets Hummel go.
  • Sequel Non-Entity: Gwen Saunders, Catherine Mary Stewart's character from the original film, is nowhere to be seen here. In one sense justified since the sequel takes place a week after the original, where she would be in college as mentioned previously. On the other hand, Richard spent the entire first movie obsessing over her romantically, and at the end of this one casually sails off on a yacht with Larry and a crew of nubile women.
  • Series Continuity Error: Richard refuses to let Larry drive in the sequel because he doesn't have a license despite driving Bernie's cart with no incident in the previous movie. One possibility could be Richard not trusting Larry anymore after the boating incident.
  • Shout-Out: When Larry and Richard leave the morgue, they almost bump into a man who says: "Hey, I'm walking here!" This was a line spoken by Dustin Hoffman's character in Midnight Cowboy.
  • Unexpected Virgin: In the end, they need the blood of a virgin to save Richard's life. Everyone looks around nervously, and Richard thinks he's finished ... until Larry puts his arm out.
    Larry: Just take the blood, Doc.
  • Unknown Rival: Larry and Richard are unaware Hummel is tailing them until the very end of the movie, despite indirectly causing a lot of trouble for him. To a lesser extent, they only become aware of the Big Bad two-thirds of the way through the film and she was likewise had no idea about them.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Larry and Richard and Charles and Henry drag Bernie around on a busy road and no one seems to notice or care.
  • Virgin-Shaming: At the end, Richard teases Larry about him still being a virgin (Despite it being the reason it saved his life).
    Larry: Just twist the knife a little deeper, why don't you?


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Weekend At Bernies II


TOW Rachel's Secret

Rachel is apparently afraid to let anyone know her favorite movie is Weekend At Bernie's.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / GuiltyPleasures

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