Andrew McCarthy Loves That Weekend At Bernie's Might Be The World's 'Stupidest Movie'

Andrew McCarthy was one of the most popular actors of the '80s and an esteemed member of the Brat Pack, alongside teen idols like Emilio Estevez and Molly Ringwald. Thanks to two of his most famous Brat Pack movie characters, Blane in "Pretty in Pink" and Kevin in "St Elmo's Fire," McCarthy became synonymous with the sensitive, angsty, nice guy, but he'd challenge that image by starring in the 1989 black comedy "Weekend at Bernie's."

The absurd film revolves around two young salesmen, Larry (McCarthy) and Richard (Jonathan Silverman), who drag their boss' corpse around so they can continue hanging out at his beach house and avoid getting wacked by mobsters. Actually, it's just a study of all the different ways two selfish yuppies can use and abuse a corpse, which is a far cry from McCarthy's gentle and compassionate brat pack roles, and far less introspective than anything John Hughes ever wrote. However, McCarthy pulls off the entitled, self-centered, bratty character as well as the tortured nice guy, and the wacky movie was actually a moderate success that inspired a sequel.

Despite its ridiculousness and distasteful subject matter, McCarthy told The AV Club back in 2017 that he has a soft spot for the movie and still enjoys its stupidity.

Improvised abuse

The darkest thing about "Weekend at Bernie's" is its ability to make you laugh at awful things. Like most people, I don't usually think it's funny to desecrate human remains, yet somehow it's hilarious when unfortunate things happen to Bernie Lomax throughout the movie. It's a morbid fact that McCarthy and the rest of the crew took advantage of during production. "You could do anything to Bernie," he told Drew Barrymore in 2021, "We realized that the more you abuse his body, the funnier it's going to be." During filming, McCarthy and the crew regularly improvised new and increasingly preposterous ways to mistreat Bernie's body:

"Anything you could think of, it wasn't stupid enough. I remember, it was like, let's say he has a toupee and let's staple his hair on him. Like, okay, put a bald cap on him. Let's staple his head. There's a scene where we're playing Monopoly. I was playing Monopoly against dead Bernie, and it wasn't in the script. I just had nothing to do, and I'd been playing Monopoly at home the night before. So I brought my Monopoly set to work, and I said, 'Let me play Bernie in Monopoly, so we just had this Monopoly match, and it turned out to be great."

As McCarthy says, the scenes of maltreatment and ridicule of a corpse are hysterical, and, as the actor readily admits, appallingly dumb. "It's the stupidest movie," he told The AV Club, while admitting the love he still has for it. Of course, as is often the case, the movie has its fair share of critics, including Gene Siskel, Roger Ebert, and McCarthy's own son.

Critical response

"Weekend at Bernie's" was released over 4th of July weekend in 1989, and it went on to earn over $30 million. That doesn't sound like a lot, but it was a respectable sum for a movie that centered around a couple of brats lugging a dead guy around in the lates '80s. However, not everybody in showbiz thought the film was funny. Siskel said he "couldn't wait for [it] to end," and Ebert "found it less and less funny as it went along." Both critics also dismissed the characters as bland and uninteresting. 

McCarthy told The AV Club that his then 15-year-old son recently watched "Weekend at Bernies," and he agreed with the critics. "Dad, that movie's really is stupid," McCarthy recalled him saying after the viewing. And, he's right, it is. Yet, here I am writing about it, 30 years after its release, so something about the movie still resonates with certain audiences. I'm with McCarthy. I think the film's confident embrace of utter ignorance and foolishness is what makes it a successful comedy that I can't help but love. I also find McCarthy's portrayal of the egotistical jerk more interesting than his renditions of the average nice guy that came before. 

Even if you're not a fan of the film's characters or the ludicrous story, you have to give it props for its willingness to wander into appalling and potentially offensive territory. To this day, I'm shocked to see Bernie dragged behind a speeding boat or tossed off a balcony, and it's even more surprising that a production company backed such a strange and simple-minded idea. But then I remember "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" was greenlit in 2007, and any feelings of superiority I had towards the '80s vanish, and I continue to laugh at Bernie's misfortunes.