"Bernie" is sort of the anti-summer blockbuster. I mean, how else do you describe a black comedy/documentary that's based on the real life story of small town Texas mortician Bernie Tiede?
If you don't know Tiede's story and you think you might want to see "Bernie," it's probably best to not read this review or any others and just go watch it. On the other hand, even if you know the particulars of what happened in Carthage, Texas (the film is largely based on this article), director Richard Linklater still finds ways to surprising you.
For his part, Jack Black turns in one of his best performances since "School of Rock," which was also directed by Linklater. Black's musical skills get used early and often, of course, but he also does a good job of wielding his slightly-demented screen persona during the film's darker moments. This is Jack Black's vehicle, and he makes the most of it.
One side effect, though, is that "Bernie" sags a bit when Black is offscreen. Neither of the other big name stars in the movie has much to do (this isn't the first time Shirley MacLaine's played an ornery widow, and this isn't the first time Matthew McConaughey's played a lawyer). As a result, it's hard to really sympathize with anyone but Bernie, but I suppose that might be the point of the whole movie: when evil is this nice, we might find ourselves rooting for it despite ourselves.