Life of the Party: Weekend at Bernie’s (1989) – review

I don’t remember the first movie I watched, but there are a few distinct images that were burnt into my mind at a very young age; a miniaturised Dennis Quaid navigating his way through Martin Short’s body in Innerspace, Bruce Willis crawling through the air vents in Die Hard and a dead Bernie Lomax being the life of the party in Weekend at Bernie’s, which is out now on Blu-ray for the first time in Australia from Via Vision Entertainment.

When two lowly New York City accountants, Richard and Larry, discover evidence of insurance fraud, their shady boss, Bernie, invites them to his weekend beachside home as a reward for their diligent work. Upon arrival, ol’ Bernie’s been murdered, and an impromptu party forces our leads to pretend that he’s still alive.

As a child, watching Weekend at Bernie’s with my parents didn’t exactly help me grasp the difference between life and death, but we were all laughing which is more important. Having since grown up and discovered the answer to many of life’s questions, I was surprised to notice a slight change in dialogue from one of the party guests. Apparently, this release is the original “F*** off, Larry” edition as opposed to the edited “Bugger off, Larry” edition. Or is it the other way around? Either way, Weekend at Bernie’s never gets old. It’s comedy at its most pure and slapstick; paying homage to the great physical performers from the silent era like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, as Bernie, who appears to be immune to rigour mortis, is really put through it by his very much alive and idiot subordinates. Richard and Larry are played by Jonathan Silverman and Andrew McCarthy respectively, who are your typical ‘uptight vs laid-back’ buddies. They both do their share of the heaving lifting, so to speak, but McCarthy edges out as the funniest with his insistence on not letting the weekend go to waste despite having to deal with a corpse. Whereas, Silverman plays more of the ‘straight man’ routine but has his moments, especially while pursuing his love interest, Gwen (Catherine Mary Stewart). Terry Kiser immortalises himself as Bernie; playing dead for the most part, but never has such a limp performance been so animated.


After years of enjoying Weekend at Bernie’s in 4:3 on crummy VHS and DVD editions, it’s a pleasure to finally watch it in widescreen (1.85:1), and while the film has never been given the full restoration treatment, Via Vision offers a solid 1080p transfer with a quality 2.0 Dolby track featuring robust volume.

Miraculously, Weekend at Bernie’s has not been remade, nor should it, but if the unthinkable happens I’d be down if Marc Maron plays Bernie. Summer hasn’t been particularly hot this year, but Via Vision’s release has kept the season’s vibe going a little longer.

(1989, director: Ted Kotcheff)



direct blu-ray screen captures



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