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Picks and Pans Review: Weekend at Bernie's

updated 07/24/1989 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/24/1989 01:00AM

Terry Kiser

In case anyone thought this was a Bergman film about a portentous Swiss Independence Day holiday with its title mistranslated, be forewarned: The main character is a corpse for most of the movie, and he gets most of the laughs. Fact is, Kiser, who plays the corpse, does a great job of going limp or stiff as the occasion demands and manages to subtly change the frozen expression on his face from scene to scene. (Kiser has been around movie stiffs before, having worked on Friday the 13th, Part VII.) If they gave Oscars for best acting in slow motion, he would have this year's sewn up already.

Surrounding Kiser is a standard yuppie sex-and-success comedy. Andrew (Less Than Zero) McCarthy and Jonathan (Caddyshack II) Silverman are two neophyte executives in a New York insurance company run by Kiser. When they learn someone is embezzling money from the firm, Kiser invites them to his beach house off Long Island to go over the books. When they arrive, they find him murdered.

Afraid they'll be blamed if Kiser's body is found, McCarthy and Silverman drag him around for the rest of the film trying to dispose of him. They prop him up at a cocktail party, tie him into a seat for a boat ride, nod his head for him so he can argue with a disputatious neighbor. Except for a bit of necrophilia (ungraphic, thank goodness) involving Riser's girlfriend, none of this seems any more offensive than many similar comedies without corpses.

McCarthy, Silverman and Catherine Mary (The Last Starfighter) Stewart, as Silverman's love interest, are lively enough. The direction by Ted (Winter People) Kotcheff and script by Robert (National Lampoon's European Vacation) Klane are serviceable too, even if everybody seems to be doing a good imitation of beating a dead plot. (PG-13)

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