The joke behind Weekend at Bernie’s, a culty dark comedy that surprised many with its clever plotting and well-choreographed pratfalls, was that Bernie Lomax, the title millionaire sleazeball, was dead and loving it. The joke behind the sequel (which was as inevitable as death itself) is that Bernie is, well, still dead. If you have trouble getting past the D.O.A. concept—and you will—then you will find Weekend at Bernie’s II as unfunny as it sounds. The biggest surprise, though, is that it is actually much worse.
The problem comes from this being a sequel. How do you sustain the story of a dead guy toted around by two idealistic young dimwits on a pretty island? You don’t, that’s how. The very idea of a sequel is purposeless because the shock value of the original is gone. Seeing a corpse dragged through the ocean by a parasail (unlike his Olympic-quality waterskiing in the original) has no shock, and thus, no sick laughs. Speaking of “sick,” you should know why exactly Bernie is still traipsing around, even though by this point, he should be decomposing six feet under.
Weekend #2 (even though it technically isn’t a weekend at all, actually) opens the Monday after the original adventure at Bernie’s beach house, with accountants/programmers Richard Parker (Jonathan Silverman) and his best friend Larry (Andrew McCarthy) returning to New York City and identifying Bernie at the morgue. Only now, they are being blamed by their company for Bernie's theft of two million dollars and are fired. Desperate to clear their name and reclaim their jobs, they investigate and discover that the money is somewhere in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. The catch is that they need dear old Bernie to sign the money out. So like any good ex-employees would do, Richard and Larry hoist their ex-boss’ odorous cadaver out of the morgue and accompany it to the Virgin Islands.
What they don’t realize is that the cartel Bernie was involved with in the original has used a voodoo queen to resurrect him to find the money. So while they get to work on the Islands, Bernie starts to rise (whenever tropical music is playing) and makes his way toward the moola. Up until the appearances of the voodoo priestess, her bumbling minions, and a company security officer (Barry Bostwick) who believes that Richard and Larry stole the money, Weekend at Bernie’s II fools you into thinking that maybe it was not such a terrible idea after all. The first shot of the reliably dead Bernie looking directly into the camera even lead me to believe that a sick joke could still be reborn (“have life after death”). No such luck.
What was rendered strangely believable in the original has been lowered to the level of lame supernatural slapstick. It’s as if someone decided to make Ghostbusters the sequel to Stripes simply because of the similar cast. The story (written by Robert Klane, who wrote and directed here, as well as penned the original) still follows the formula for a comedy of errors. Only now the errors aren’t comedic, they’re contrived.
Instead of being the victim of constant physical follies as in the original, Bernie now gets himself into trouble while parading around the Island (always to the beat of that snazzy music). With child-like movements and a subtle smile, Terry Kiser lets his character be even more eerily adorable than before. The one amusing aspect of Weekend at Bernie’s II comes from the irony that Bernie himself is the only sign of life. In the original, someone killed Bernie. In the sequel, someone kills the joke.