Audience may be better off dead than at 'Bernie's II'

July 13, 1993|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Film Critic

The trouble with Bernie in "Weekend at Bernie's II" is not that he's dead, but that the movie around him is in a state of rigor mortis. In fact, this is the one movie ever made that only comes alive when the corpse moves to center stage.

A sequel to the marginally successful "Weekend at Bernie's" of 1989, Part II is set not on a weekend at all but on the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the following week. (However, the movie is so sloppily made that it fails to set itself up in time.) And no longer is it "at Bernie's": It's at the Virgin Islands. So it's another "Weekend at Bernie's" in no meaningful sense.

The usual suspects are back: Jonathan Silverman and Andrew McCarthy as a couple of low-level insurance lackeys who were originally scheduled to be fall guys for Bernie Lomax's scheme to defraud the company.

Unfortunately, Bernie (Terry Kiser) got seriously dead (a Mafia bullet), and the two young men had to finesse their way through a lengthy Fire Island weekend with the corpse, for plot reasons that no sane person could be expected to recall.

At least that one had a plot. In this one, the pretext for action is thinner than plastic wrap. Bernie had locked 2 million bucks in a St. Thomas safe deposit box with security arrangements set up so that only he can physically open it. So the guys have to get his corpse out of cold storage in the New York morgue and get him down there for another tour of pretend-life.

There's one wrinkle: The Mafia also wants the money, and they've hired a voodoo priestess to bring Ber

nie back to life. But her bumbling agents blow the job, rendering Bernie into a state of semi-zombiehood. He only stirs to fitful motion when that hot Calypso-reggae music starts a-boppin', mon.

This leads to "II's" only sustained source of humor, which is poor Terry Kiser, his face hardened into a look of twisted blissful idiocy, his body bent backward like a bow, his legs and feet tap-tap-tapping out an island beat while around him revelers and celebrants cavort with equal mindlessness.

Kiser is an incredibly gifted physical comedian, and nobody has brought more grace and delicacy to the role of a corpse. But the movie doesn't do nearly enough with him.

Instead, too much time is wasted in getting to him -- he doesn't begin to do the limbo till 40 minutes have passed -- and too much is wasted on the overacting of McCarthy and Silverman. McCarthy, in particular, seems as if he's just swallowed a guppy.

"Weekend at Bernie's II" only proves what critics have known for years: that on the planet of the bad movies, there's no life after death.

MOVIE REVIEW

"Weekend at Bernie's II"

L Starring Terry Kiser, Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman

Directed by Robert Klane

Released by TriStar

PG-13 rated

*

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