Directed By: Richard Linklater

Starring: Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey, and Shirley MacLaine

There's nothing quite like a small town, especially in the South.  Everybody is in everyone else's business like it's their job.  The townspeople think they know everything about everyone else.  Because of that, a man's reputation is everything.  Rumors and perception rule these cul de sacs.  Back in the 90s in a little town in East Texas named Carthage, a man named Bernie Tiede enamored the townspeople with his generous heart even after he shot an 81 year-old lady in the back four times with a  rifle.  That's the power of a good reputation in a small town.  Richard Linklater's movie about this true story explores Bernie's relationships with the people of Carthage.

Bernie (Jack Black) is a mortician known for having a big heart.  As an employee at a funeral home in East Texas, he regularly does his part to help the dead rest in eternal comfort.  He not only beautifies the deceased individual's body but consoles those who are left behind in the land of the living.  With his giving nature, he checks in on them, brings them food, and even buys them gifts. In the eyes of the townspeople, he's basically Jesus.  At the funeral of her husband, Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), the meanest, wealthiest woman in town, meets Bernie for the first time. 

When Bernie reaches out to her after her husband's passing, Marjorie befriends him.  They become companions who travel the world together.  He becomes a partner who shares in her wealth and eventually becomes the sole heir of Marjorie's entire estate.  Somewhere along the way, Bernie's friendship with Marjorie sours and becomes servitude.  He's emotionally abused.  He has no life outside of what Marjorie dictates.  He has no friends, and Bernie has to have his friends.  Fed up with Marjorie, he shoots her in the back one day in her garage.  When the townspeople find out, District Attorney Danny Buck (Matthew McConaughey) is tasked with bringing Bernie to justice.  There's just one small problem.  The people of Carthage just love that man too damn much, and they hate Marjorie.

Director Richard Linklater has made a bold move in making Bernie.  He's turned a real life murder into a black comedy.  It's a little controversial to say the least.  Freezing Miss Daisy might not be as funny given that it's true.  Many of the townspeople of Carthage, Texas certainly don't like it.  However, there is some truth to the film, and it's worthwhile entertainment.  I personally have no problem with the movie.  Hell, Marjorie Nugent's nephew said that the movie was quite accurate aside from some trivial differences.  That's enough for me.

Bernie is quite an amusing romp.  Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, and Matthew McConaughey all give some great performance as caricatures of these small town folks in Bernie.  It's great to have Jack Black showing off his comedic chops once again on the big screen.  Black brings a lovable silliness to the character of Bernie.  It's been a couple of years since we've seen Shirley MacLaine on the big screen as well.  She's aged a little, but she can play the granny from hell Marjorie Nugent perfectly.  The real standout of the film is Matthew McConaughey's Danny Buck.  As the district attorney, McConaughey is one wild dude.  His battle with Bernie ultimately becomes a battle with the whole of Carthage, and it's quite fun to watch his interactions with the townspeople.

What really works for Bernie is the inclusion of interviews with the townspeople.  Whoever cast these guys in their roles deserves a bonus.  These actors are absolute fools.  They just give us old townspeople talking trash and saying whatever the hell they feel like saying whenever they want to say it.  Whether dropping fun four-letter words left and right, giving us a rather interesting geography lesson on the state of Texas, or calling on Saint Bernie, these guys are absolutely hilarious, and I love them.  They add some serious value to the film.

Bernie is a real gem that will probably have some appeal to an older crowd.  It's not the greatest comedy ever, but it's definitely amusing throughout.  Bernie gets a strong 0.06% rating.  Like Bernie and Marjorie, try and enjoy the finer things in life with this one by having a couple of glasses of wine.  I recommend some Moscato with this one.