ROME — Hitching a routine rehash of the first installment’s cavorting cadaver antics to a frantic hunt for the defunct’s cash stash, writer/director Robert Klane delivers a mildly diverting farcical caper in “Weekend at Bernie’s II.” A TriStar summer release Stateside, original pic clicked resoundingly in Italo playoff, prompting local outfit Artimm to finance this sequel and open it in advance of U.S. play. “Bernie’s II” stretches a thin idea even thinner, but it offers enough puerile fun and well-executed gags to lure fans of the 1989 predecessor back to theaters before a more robust future on homevideo.
Story picks up ambitious insurance company stooges Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman, back in Gotham to check boss Bernie (Terry Kiser) into the morgue and return to work as heroes after uncovering his $ 2 million plunder. But instead of a promotion, they get fired, with company snoop Barry Bostwick tailing them to track down the missing loot.
Also after the cash are Bernie’s mob cohorts, now in cahoots with a Virgin Islands voodoo queen. She dispatches a bumbling duo (Tom Wright and Steve James) to N.Y. to resurrect Bernie and bring him back.
In a funny James Brown-style scene, they botch the voodoo rites, reanimating Bernie only when he hears music. This gives rise to sequel’s best addition: Where the stiff was hitherto limited to being manipulated puppet-fashion, Bernie now cuts loose like a zombie funkmeister.
Plot complications are troweled on with varying degrees of plausibility, but serve mainly as a stage for Klane’s endless succession of well-timed setups, landing the corpse in increasingly cartoonish situations.
Kiser’s deadpan smirk and rubberized gait are perfectly tuned to the slapstick agenda, whether he’s leading a conga line, unwittingly winning a beach bimbo’s heart or parasailing and becoming shark bait. However, Klane pays scant attention to connecting scenes, failing to keep things buoyant despite the affable mugging of McCarthy and Silverman.
Also going nowhere is a half-cooked romantic interest (Troy Beyer). She appears destined first for one lead, then the other, but after saving their skins, the character is unceremoniously dumped.
Tech aspects are sound, and lenser Edward Morry III’s abundant establishing shots of St. Thomas and the gorgeous U.S. Virgin Islands locations should prove a boon to tourism.