The Jerk (1979)
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P.S. If you're a worried parent wondering if this movie is okay for your child to see, let him / her see it. It's actually pretty tame. I couldn't tell what made it an R-rated movie.
Steve martin is truly a comic genius. I heard from a friend he's got a Super human IQ and he puts it to such good use. He portrays brilliance in comical situations, witty conversations and his energy is extra-ordinary. Bernadette peters is beautiful and quite enchanting herself. " loved the song they played with the Ukulele and the saxophone. Beautiful !
This flick is way ahead of its time, and the original spoof of many old and future Hollywood movies. With a ritz to rubble or a rags to riches kinda story and a light-hearted touch, this is a FUNNY FUNNY movie right from the start till the end that guarantees to tickle your funny bones for sure !! Cheers !
Whatever, there is still a lot of good laughs in year, subtle and slapstick variety. Now I laugh more at the subtle things. Almost all the characters in here, beginning with Steve Martin's "Navin R. Johnson," are wacky. Bernadette Peters, by the way, never looked prettier. This was in the earlier days of the ratings system and that PG rating would be at least PG-13 today. It still fun to see it after a long absence. Martin was on a roll back in those days, "a wild and crazy guy," and it's good that he's still entertaining us -- years later, although in a more subtle way. Hey, he's getting older, too.
REVIEW BY JOHN ULMER
Steve Martin had basically gained a burst of fame before starring in Carl Reiner's wacky comedy "The Jerk." Martin was fresh off hosting "Saturday Night Live" a few times, and had made a few albums and stand-up gigs. But "The Jerk" is what established him as an on-screen comedian.
Martin plays a lame-brain fool, who lives with his family on a plantation farm. Only one problem. His family is black, he is white. After coming to facts about his racial status, Martin flees from the scene and heads for the downtown gig. He is suckered out of - and into - many things throughout the film. Not as much of because he is innocent as he is dumb, however. Unlike comedies like "Blast From the Past" where the main character is treated bad and doesn't realize it because he/she is innocent and has no idea what to expect from life, Martin gets treated bad and doesn't realize it because he is stupid, not only because he is innocent.
The Jerk starts out working at a gas station. Some of the funniest scenes occur here. One, is when a madman with a sniper rifle is shooting at Martin and misses. Martin, being The Jerk, thinks the man is purposely shooting at paint cans. He says, "Hey! It's the cans! He must hate the cans! Stay away from the cans!" Another is when he gets a home...living in a bathroom. ("Like it? I LOVE it!") And one that has always gotten my funnybone is when Martin looks in a phone book and sees his name. "I'm a person now!" He yells. This is true, of course. All of us feel like more than just skin after seeing our names printed somewhere. I recall first seeing my name as a reviewer on Rotten Tomatoes. It feels great to have your name written somewhere, because you know that someone, somewhere, saw that name and put it in. Someone read one of my movie reviews. Though Martin's character takes it to a new extreme, it is nevertheless true. When you sign your name on a document, the document becomes active and real. So why should it not be the same with Martin's character? Perhaps while he is a jerk, he is at the same time smart. Nah, he's just stupid.
"The Jerk" carved a place for itself in history. I had really never seen any comedy like it before. "Airplane" was released the same year, and the humor was much the same, as well as the editing (see below), but I saw "The Jerk" first, and it was an odd surprise. The humor is by itself. It is so odd and original that it makes it one of the best. Martin went on to make the less-successful "The Man with Two Brains," also directed by Reiner. The film is much the same, but does not work to the same degree. Too many jokes fall flat. Unlike "The Jerk," where the jokes start to fall flat in the middle and pick up again at the end, "The Man with Two Brains" had its hit-and-misses almost the whole way through. It was a fine comedy, but not great at all.
Steve Martin brings his character to life. He is one of the absolute dumbest, innocent, naive individuals I have ever seen on screen. But what makes him work so well is Martin. Martin behind it all. But the thing is, Martin dissolves himself completely into character. He is so stupid that you can't help but laugh. In "The Naked Gun" (1988) Leslie Nielsen used a dumb character and played him smart, deadpan, serious. Like everything he was saying and doing was normal. Martin does the same, but in a different way. He doesn't play him deadpan and smart. He plays a dumb character dumb, having no idea what he is saying and doing is wrong. And another interesting aspect is that even though Martin disguises himself as The Jerk, we can still see Martin shining through. Martin can play versatile actors (see "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" - 1987), but Martin is still inside. We can see him shining through. That is why Steve Martin is one of my favorite comedians. He can envelop his character, yet at the same time keep the Martin charm. That's why I can usually expect solid laughs from a Martin vehicle.
Director Carl Reiner does a few out-of-place cuts in "The Jerk," just like he did in "The Man with Two Brains," but I think that it worked overall. Part of what makes this movie so funny and goofy is how the editing is so odd. So many scenes are out of place and pay nothing to the film. But like I said, that is what makes it so original and stupid.
The film loses some steam halfway through, and the jokes sometimes fall flat, but overall the comedy is one of the best of its genre. I would say it is Martin's best comedy, but that spot is saved for "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" which co-stars John Candy. THAT movie is Steve Martin's best, and always will be.
Overall, "The Jerk" is one of the most original, wacky, and wild and crazy (Martin reference intended) comedies ever. See it for laughs, plain and simple.
Navin R. Johnson, raised by poor Mississippi Black Sharecroppers, on his birthday "feels different" like he "doesn't belong." His "Mother" reveals the shocking news, Navin's not their natural born child! "But we raised you like you were one of us!" Navin delivers the spine-splitting laughter comment, "You mean I'm gonna stay this color?" and gets depressed. One night, however, he hears a catchy jazz tune on the radio (The song BTW is called "Crazy Rhythm.") and starts dancing around the house all excited and motivated! "This is the kind of music that tells me to go out there and be somebody!!!!" With renewed energy and a new outlook on life, Navin sets out to find his "Special Purpose." (Which he KNOWS is out there.)
However, his lack of intelligence lands him in some of the funniest situations ever seen in any movie. For instance, he gets a job at a gas station where the owner persuades him to work "for $1.10 an hour!" "How much?" Navin asks. The owner repeats, "$1.10 an hour." Navin is overcome with emotion, "You'll pay me, $1.10 if I work here an hour!!!???" He than writes back home to his family:
"Folks, I got this great job at a gas station! I don't wanna say how much I'm making, but let's just say IT'S A LOT!! I'm enclosing $2.00!"
Watch for so many scenes like this and some all-time great lines by Steve Martin as only he can deliver them. Comedy doesn't get any better. You are guaranteed to crack up every time you watch this movie!
Standouts are when he is being chased by a sniper at a gas station! Navin makes some HILARIOUS comments about cans that he thinks are defective because the sniper is shooting at him and keeps hitting the cans!!! "These cans are defective!!!" Navin says, "There springing leaks!" STAY AWAY FROM THE CANS!!! Navin also takes jobs at a traveling carnival roadshow as a weight-guesser and has more great lines when a Midway participant asks what prizes he can win! There he meets a very jealous motorcycle lady. (There is some course R-rated situations in this part of the movie.)
He also meets a dear sweet lady played by Bernadette Peters in a WONDERFUL supporting role. A bizarre invention makes him a millionaire, but the effects of the product force him into a lawsuit in which he loses everything and goes back to the foster family that still loves him.
Steve Martin was BORN to play this role! I can't say enough great things about this classic film! The only problem is that the theatrical version is missing a lot of alternative clips that can be found on the TV version: These include:
1.) Navin elaborating with Mr. Hartoonian at the gas station about making $1.10/hr.
2.) A Texas Millionaire conning Navin into giving money to fix the cracked seats on his airplane.
3.) Navin, depressed and despondent in a scene where after Marie leaves him, he goes up on an amusement park ride feeling "so broke that he had to spin."
4.) Navin telling his "Mother" that he had been waiting for his skin to change color, "any year now." I have been waiting for Universal to release a DVD of The Jerk that contains this added footage It may be awhile, so I will probably just have to get the DVD as is. It would be nice to have these added scenes included on a future DVD.
However, this is a movie that is brilliant on all counts and only seems to get even better with time! A Special Edition DVD if released will (hopefully) finally give "The Jerk" the royal classic treatment that it deserves!
All you need is a chair, remote control, TV set, a channel or DVD, or a tape of the movie, a VCR or DVD player to see the movie and that's all you need! And remember! "STAY AWAY FROM THE CANS!"
MArtin is NAvin Johnson,a dim bulb of a dude with a good heart whose story begins with him being raised as the son of black share-croppers in the deep south. It never really occurs to him as a youth that he is different from his adopted kinfolk all the way into adulthood before he discovers that he doesn't have rhythm on his(18th)birthday. Deciding that he needs to leave home to find his identity,he embarks on a misadventure that takes him from working odd jobs to becoming a super-rich inventor/entrepreneur. Along the way,he finds love in an equally dull but extremely cute beautician(Bernadette Peters).
MArtin's full-on commitment to character and Carl Reiner's cooperative direction make this film a delightfully odd and fitfully funny. MArtin fans of all stripes will feel the need to own this one!