Bernie poster

Release: April 27, 2012 (limited)


It’s always a joy to be the youngest viewer in the theater by a good 30 or 40 years. And also one of the only ones present. Then again, that’s not really surprising when I came to the realization that this movie had been out since April this year. !!!!! I hadn’t seen but a single trailer or teaser for this hilarious revamping of Jack Black’s career. I guess if you snooze, you lose. It could be even more of a sleeper hit than Moonrise Kingdom. And in terms of the enjoyment you’ll experience the two are on par.

Great to see Jack Black graduate from the School of Rock! In this humorous little hit directed and written by Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused; A Scanner Darkly), we’ve learned the man can flesh out a character just as well as he can act like a total goofball. But I think there’s more to it than that, even. He’s invented a new, more believable brand of his old comedic wonkiness. He still gets to wear his britches high as hell (well past where a normal person would consider their waistline), he potters around the screen with a slightly weird walk — one Carthagian described him as “light on the loafers.” Despite the ridiculousness, Black’s Tiede has far more depth than any character he’s had in the past. I’m so glad to see him finally break the mold, I think it’s a respectable career move.

‘Respectable’ is a slight understatement when describing Bernie Tiede. The town of Carthage, Texas, loves the man as though he were family. As an assistant funeral director, Tiede takes the extra-extra mile to ensure the deceased always get a proper burial. That’s a mindset that effloresces his wonderful personality, the affection that has won the townspeople over. That’s why it is so difficult and so bizarre, when, due to a thorough investigation done by none other than District Attorney Danny Buck Davidson (Matthew McConaughey), they learn of Bernie’s murder of Marjorie Nugent, the richest and most despised woman in Carthage.

She is a character that would even give the Pope trouble maintaining objectivity in his dailies (if ever she graced the Vatican). She wears on Bernie’s sweet nature as a matter of fact which is exactly where it all goes wrong.

Packed with interviews from actual Carthage locals commenting on the identity and controversial arrest and imprisonment of the real Bernie Tiede, Linklater has drafted a cleverly funny and endearing story that boosts its stars as well as bring attention to an otherwise unknown community. He infuses the locals in such a way as to ensure there’s always a gut-busting moment for each second of tension — the source of which is traced mainly to one knucklehead named Nugent.

While the ending may surprise you, it’s part of the shock that rocked the community when it all happened in the mid-90s, and is recreated with exceptional taste.

Jack Black stars as Bernie

4-0Recommendation: Bernie is hysterical, yet not over-the-top at any one point. Instead you’ll enjoy a rather steady chuckle that builds and builds and builds, like the sneeze you can’t even get rid of staring into bright sunshine.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 104 mins.

Quoted: “Ms. Nugent is in a deep-freezer headed for Dallas.”

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