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 27 Box Office Source: Rentrak Corp.
Rank Title Weekend Gross* Weeks on Chart Cume. Gross* EW Grade
1.
Lucy
Universal
$44.0 1 $44.0 B
2.
Hercules
Paramount
$29.0 1 $29.0 C-
3. $16.4 3 $172.1 B+
4.
The Purge: Anarchy
Universal
$9.9 2 $51.3 C-
5.
Planes: Fire & Rescue
Walt Disney Pictures
$9.3 2 $35.1 B
6.
Sex Tape
Sony
$6.0 2 $26.9 C+
7. $4.6 5 $236.4 D+
8.
And So It Goes
Clarius Entertainment
$4.6 1 $4.6 C-
9.
Tammy
Warner Bros.
$3.4 4 $78.1 B
10.
A Most Wanted Man
Roadside Attractions
$2.7 1 $2.7 B
* in millions