Movie Review : Weekend at Bernie's II (1993)
No movie explores the idea of death quite like Weekend at Bernie's. Thousands of movies do, but they usually romanticize the idea of dying or the afterlife. I don't know any other movies about a corpse being a corpse for over an hour. It's weird and wrong in the best possible way a movie can be weird and wrong. The only movie I know to be weirder and wronger while actively trying to be fun and engaging is Weekend and Bernie's II. That's right. This baby is a sequel and there's no way I could've finished this week without discussing one of the most blissfully stupid movies I've ever seen.
Weekend and Bernie's II starts at the morgue, right after the events of the first movie. The film itself was shot three years after the first (production was in 1992), but no time has passed whatsoever. Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman looked identical anyway, so it made things easier. Our protagonists Larry and Richard get fired from the insurance firm after Bernie Lomax's fraud is exposed. The new boss believes the two helped Bernie embezzled two million dollars and tasks the internal investigator to prove their guilt. They're not the only people after the money, though. Bernie's mob associates hire a voodoo queen (Novella Nelson) to help them find the money. She tasks two henchmen to reanimate his body and lead them to the jackpot, but they're not very smart or good at their job.
So, Bernie Lomax (Terry Kiser) becomes a situational zombie in Weekend and Bernie's II. He only animates when there's music playing. The movie is basically a treasure hunt musical lead by a zombie, set to silly pan music. You've read that right. And unlike for Weekend at Bernie's, every important character is fully aware that he's dead. Everyone is after the same thing: Bernie's hidden offshore money and there is no ethical qualm about raising him from the dead to do so. Of course, if you watch this movie you're aware that Bernie Lomax was a hedonistic stereotypical antagonist of his living, but so is everybody else: the insurance firm is looking to hide a two million dollars loss to share holders, the mob are basically in this movie to provide a threat of gun violence and our protagonist Richard and Larry are committing several crimes going after a dead guy's wealth. Including, you know, this.
If Weekend at Bernie's explored the shallow and self-absorbed lifestyle of the eighties, Weekend and Bernie's II is definitely a movie about greed. Taken out of context, the premise couldn't be any more depressing and it's part of what makes the Bernie Lomax movies so goddamn funny. They are absolutely shameless. Unlawfully going after a dead person's money is a heinous crime, but Weekend and Bernie's II is hilariously unsentimental about its themes. Dead is dead and a dead guy's money is fair game if there's no lawful heir to claim it. There is no such thing as legacy in a world dominated by mobster and corrupt businessman. Money is a faceless and fluid commodity with a transformative power that applies to everyone just the same. Weekend and Bernie's II is, once again, a pretty nihilistic movie but like a good nihilist would, it find a ways to laugh at just about everything.
Movies have been fascinated with the idea that death is not the end for a long time. What makes the Bernie Lomax movies special is that death is very much the end in them. He's the only character that dies in both films and he remains dead, which makes him the most endearing character. I don't believe movies like Weekend and Bernie's II would get produced today. They are mementos from a foregone era in the movie business where you could take risks because you weren't force to put all your chips in on every project. It's summer, theaters are full of long and self-important movies featuring things that explode every five minutes so do yourself a favor: stay home and watch Bernie Lomax being dead. He is perhaps the best cadaver in the history of movies.