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Stars: Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey, Brady Coleman

Director: Richard Linklater

Jack Black enjoys himself - especially singing 76 Trombones - in a different kind of role, in the strange, true-life story of an East Texas funeral director.

One of the most popular men in Carthage, Bernie is an all-round do-gooder and sweet gospel singer who supports the church, comforts the bereaved, hangs wallpaper and 'even makes curtains'.

His only mistake, a fatal one, comes when he befriends the most hated woman in town, mean ol' Mrs Nugent (MacLaine), a rich misanthrope, after she has lost her husband.

Under Bernie's wheedling charm, Marjorie Nugent's innate grumpiness seems to melt and she invites him into her home.

Subsequently, they enjoy dinners, shows and wordlwide travel together, Mrs N puts Bernie in charge of her affairs and leaves everything to him in a new will.

Somewhere along the line, alas, the relationship turns sour: Marjorie reverts to type, starts nagging like a termagant and treats Bernie like a servant. After months of humiliation, Bernie snaps, and puts four bullets in his tormentor with an armadillo gun. Putting her in the deep freeze, the mortician carries on as if she were still alive. but the local DA (McConaughey, in another of his broad Southern turns) is sceptical...

Black, who looks a lot like the original Bernie, does a lot of singing here - far from his Tenacious D rock music - and smiles cloyingly, but doesn't win as much of our sympathy as he might, while MacLaine is better at being nice than with her mean act, which is a bit one-note.

Although stretched not too uncomfortably to feature length, it's a slight anecdote that may have you glancing at your watches before it's over. There are, however, a few rewarding moments along the way.

David Quinlan

USA 2011. UK Distributor: The Works. Colour by deluxe.
98 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 22 Apr 2013