Bernie (2012) It sounds like a clever idea: Why not let firsthand witnesses narrate a movie about the stranger-than-fiction friendship between Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), a nasty… 2012-04-27 PG-13 PT104M Comedy Jack Black Shirley MacLaine Matthew McConaughey Millenium Entertainment
Movie Review

Bernie (2012)

MPAA Rating: PG-13
LOVE KILLS Shirley MacLaine as ''Marjorie Nugent'' and Jack Black as ''Bernie Tiede'' in Bernie
Image credit: Deana Newcomb
LOVE KILLS Shirley MacLaine as ''Marjorie Nugent'' and Jack Black as ''Bernie Tiede'' in Bernie
EW's GRADE
B-

Details Limited Release: Apr 27, 2012; Rated: PG-13; Length: 104 Minutes; Genre: Comedy; With: Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey; Distributor: Millenium Entertainment

It sounds like a clever idea: Why not let firsthand witnesses narrate a movie about the stranger-than-fiction friendship between Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), a nasty Texas dowager, and Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), the beloved small-town mortician who killed Marjorie in 1996 and hid her in a freezer for nine months? Here's why not: Because when director Richard Linklater does just that — bookending nearly every scene of his pitch-black comedy Bernie with commentary from the colorful pals and neighbors who knew the ill-fated couple in 1990s Carthage, Tex. — he guts his own movie. All those twangy, homespun observations interrupt and annotate the narrative until Black and MacLaine's scenes start to feel as trivial as reenactments on a true-crime TV show.

That's a shame, since both actors give fearless, all-in performances. Black turns his comic energy inward, playing Bernie as a cherubic oddball so endearing that the local DA (Matthew McConaughey) is scolded around town just for investigating him. MacLaine, in an underwritten battle-ax role, lets flickers of charm shoot out behind her scowl. They deserve a better movie, one that would trust them to tell their characters' story on their own — without footnotes. B-

Originally posted Apr 25, 2012 Published in issue #1205 May 04, 2012 Order article reprints
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Weekend of Jul 13 Box Office Source: Rentrak Corp.
Rank Title Weekend Gross* Weeks on Chart Cume. Gross* EW Grade
1. $73.0 1 $73.0 B+
2. $16.5 3 $209.0 D+
3.
Tammy
Warner Bros.
$12.9 2 $57.4 B
4. $6.7 5 $172.0 B-
5. $5.9 5 $152.1 B
6.
Earth to Echo
Relativity
$5.5 2 $24.6 C-
7.
Deliver Us From Evil
Screen Gems
$4.7 2 $25.0 D+
8.
Maleficent
Walt Disney Pictures
$4.2 7 $222.0 B-
9.
Begin Again
Weinstein Co.
$2.9 3 $5.3 B-
10.
Jersey Boys
Warner Bros.
$2.5 4 $41.7 B-
* in millions