Black comedies are very hard to get right. They can either be one of the best things you’ve ever seen, or one of the most boring and pointless experiences of your life. The thing is, they often seem quite mean, especially if they’re based on a real life tragedy as experienced here. However, the story can just be so bizarre that it almost needs to be told.
Bernie (Black) is a beloved and popular member of the small town of Carthage, Texas; who starts a helpful relationship with unpleasant older women, Margaret Nugent (McLaine). After some time he finds her emotional dependence too much to take, and murders her. For the next 9 months he hides her body and helps the town with her money, explaining away her absence as best he can.
The real focus of the movie is not so much these events, but the reaction of the town to being told of their beloved Bernie having done such an act; and what occurred there was something that became famous through a newspaper story, which is how it became adapted into this movie. In terms of actors, Jack Black is probably as good a choice as you could have hoped for, as he does have that quality which can be applied to both tragedy and comedy until you no longer know which is which. And if you need a frigid old woman, bless her, McLaine is probably one of the best for the job.
Bernie is….interesting I suppose. Does that make it funny? Sometimes. Personally I would rather watch something that makes me laugh more often, but it really is going to be down to personal preference in this instance.