Even though "Weekend at Bernie's" was far from a phenomenon (as evidenced by the deafening silence around its anniversary), you can bet one thing: it will be remade. Look no further than the "Red Dawn" remake or the currently-in-pre-production "WarGames" movie to acknowledge that only a cursory amount of goodwill is required to get the remake machine gears in motion. And, it's in this spirit of remakery that we offer our humble suggestions on what should be changed, updated, reconfigured, and who should be recruited for such serious heavy lifting.
The original film concerned a couple of low-level white-collar drones: the more straight-laced Richard (Jonathan Silverman) and the infinitely more slippery Larry (Andrew McCarthy). They work for a large insurance company and are paid basically nothing. After discovering insurance fraud, they make their boss, Bernie Lomax (Terry Kiser) aware of the problem. Of course, it's Bernie who was committing the insurance fraud and, after inviting the two young men to his Hamptons beach house, promptly conspires with his mob connections to have them killed. The gangsters, naturally, double-cross Bernie and kill him -- right before Richard and Larry show up to his lavish Hamptons estate. Instead of reporting the murder, the two decide to pretend that Bernie is still alive. Shenanigans ensue.
For this new "Weekend at Bernie's," the obvious big change would be to turn Bernie into a Bernie Madoff-type character (they have the same name for crying out loud!). If you wanted to, Bernie could be killed off by a mob-connected client who had been swindled out of his money, and the two characters could have twin goals: to make it seem like Bernie is alive and to restore the company to its former glory. The two younger characters could stay the same, with roughly the same story in place. (Although you'd have to swap Bernie's accidental confession into an answer machine for something more 21st Century.)
The parties at Casa de Bernie would have to be bigger and more out of control, rivaling the bacchanalia captured in things like "Project X" and "Neighbors," and there would have to be technological updates, as well. One thing Bernie's corpse never did in the original film was talk; turn the Larry character into something of an electronics wiz, and use a cell phone speaker and some audio bits taken from the internet, and (voila!) Bernie can sort of speak to his partygoers, the mob floozy who shows up at the house demanding answers, and the goon who shows up to kill Bernie (again). Just imagine the possibilities.
While the original film was photographed in a straightforward way that made everything seem somehow more off-kilter (by journeyman director Ted Kotcheff), this new "Weekend at Bernie's" would be more stylized, in a hyperactive, nearly frenzied aesthetic that would call to mind "'Wolf of Wall Street' on the beach." (We'd even go as far as to suggest a director of photography: "Spring Breakers" cinematographer Benoit Debie.) We'd also push the gallows humor of the original film. It should never be bleak, but it could be much, much darker; that we'd love to see.
Here's the big question: who would star in a revamp of "Weekend at Bernie's"?
When it comes to the Larry character, originally essayed by Andrew McCarthy, we can't help but think of Bradley Cooper. He's got that natural smugness and beady-eyed intelligence, and we know from "The Hangover" movies and, well, pretty much everything he's done since, that he's really, really funny. (Whether or not he'd actually do this movie is something else entirely. But hey, this is just a fantasy, right?) In the part of Richard, who is resistant almost the entire time, we would go with Kevin Hart. Now while you might be WTF-ing that choice, think about it for a minute: firstly, this is 2014. And we could stand to have a much more culturally diverse cast. Secondly, Hart is great at both being a straight man and freaking out. And we honestly think that the chemistry between Hart and Cooper would be pretty great.
Now, for some of the more thankless roles: for Bernie, we like Alan Arkin. Not only would this be a great, pick-up-the-paycheck role for an older, A-list actor, but Arkin has basically been either comatose or outright dead in the last few movies he's appeared in. Most of his performance in Disney's sorely underrated "Million Dollar Arm" consists of Arkin taking lengthy naps. So his performance as Bernie could just be a natural extension of that. For the bumbling gangster (and possible client) who murders Bernie by injecting poison into his butt cheek and later returning to finish the job (once work leaks that Bernie is very much alive -- see, this aspect could be enhanced by social media, with Larry and Richard updating his Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. to show that he's still alive), we like Frank Grillo. He always lends a certain amount of gravitas to his performances, and he could inject the right amount of menace into a largely airy tale.
For the two largely forgettable female roles, we like Cobie Smulders for the role of Gwen, the office love interest who winds up at Bernie's party, mostly due to her fiery intelligence, good looks, and ability to land a joke, while Margot Robbie from "Wolf of Wall Street" would make a tremendous Tawny, Bernie's mobbed up mistress. Robbie has got the temper, she can handle the accent, and she is drop-dead gorgeous (pun very much intended).
Behind the Camera
While David Wain was briefly floated for the director of Disney's "Ant-Man," we still think he has the chops to handle a big studio movie. (His tiny indie comedy "They Came Together" is now in theaters and On Demand.) Wain, with things like "Role Models" and "Wet Hot American Summer," knows how to push a seemingly trite concept, like, say, a remake of an '80s comedy that barely anybody remembers today, and push it to the breaking point, layering in elements of absurdity and surrealism, two things that a "Weekend at Bernie's" remake would desperately require. And with the hire of Wain, he could also co-script, with any number of his "State"/"Wet Hot American Summer" collaborators (including Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter, and Ken Marino). Another bonus to this decision: Wain directed Bradley Cooper in "Wet Hot American Summer," so maybe he really could be secured for the Andrew McCarthy role. It's all coming together...
How would you cast "Weekend at Bernie's reboot?
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Photo of David Wain by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images, other images via Getty Images, Warner Bros, Fox, and Screen Gems.