I can't say I'm a big fan of Jack Black. To me, he is strictly hit of completely miss. His bog break came with the short lived series Tenacious Don HBO. He then parlayed that into a very credible part n the "King Kong" remake in 2005, then into a ludicrous - but very profitable - role as "Nacho Libre". That lead to the awful and money losing film "Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny" or what some like to call going to the well one time to many.


That was followed by a roller coaster of roles from "The Holiday" to "Margot at the Wedding" to "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" to a very unfunny part in the hilarious "Tropic Thunder". He actually works out better as the voice-over in "Kung Fu Panda".


When he tries to hard to be funny he fails miserably. However, when he gets a role like "Bernie" he seems to shine. He plays an always charming mortician in Carthage, Texas who charms the pants off everyone until...

The film opens with him giving a seminar on the proper way to make up a corpse prior to the funeral. It is so meticulous he even mentions the proper angle the head should be cocked for viewing pleasure. It is a stone cold funny presentation that sets the tone for the film.


He becomes the assistnat funeral director of the town funeral home because people like him so much they don't mind his up-selling. He has a manner envious of doctors who have to deliver morbid news. All the women love him, but he seems to have an affinity for older women. Rather, very old women.


This raises the suspicions of the town sheriff Danny Buck (Matthew Conaughey) especially when Bernie befirends the towns wealthiest woman Marjorie Nugent (a delicious Shirley MacLaine) who recently buried her wealthy husband. Marjorie is vilified by all including her own family. Everyone would just love to see her dead.


But somehow Bernie reaches a soft spot in her that seems to make her lighten up... but only for a minute. She soon resorts back and pushes him to the point of murder.

That is when the film takes off. The most loved guy in town killed the most hated women in town. This becomes a daunting task for the sheriff and the states attorney as the have a problem finding a suitable jury.


Director Richard Linklater guides a marvelous story almost seamlessly through the darkest parts while keeping it light and well paced.


This is not unusualy with him as I was a bug fan of his previous works "Me and Orson Welles" and "Fast Food Nation", though neither were big money makers. In fact, both lost lots of money; his only profitable film was 1998 "The Newton Boys".


Yet, his films are very likable, though never well marketed.

I expect much of the same here as well. Even with Black, McConaughey and MacLaine "Bernie" will be hard pressed to be noticed amongst "The Avengers", "Dark Shadows", "Battleship" and next week's "Men in Black".


Yet it must be said that MacLaine and Black have great chemistry as the bitch and the punching bag. The dry humor is reminiscent of "Being There" when she played opposite Peter Sellers.


"Bernie" is a must see for people who like a dry dark humor and definitely for fans of Shirley MacLaine and Jack Black. It probably won't be in the theaters long but is a great alternative for those who eschew the blockbusters!   -- GEOFF BURTON