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The Jerk (1979)
10/10
Overwhelmingly and brilliantly funny with genius throwaways.
24 December 2003
To enter the realm inhabited by Martin's blissfully original caricatures, you must first be tested for wit, intellect and an innocent revelry in life itself. If you qualify, you will be led on to a rollercoaster of oxygen-sapping gags, stupendously clever motifs, brilliant performances and an absolutely fabulous script. There are gags here so new and surprising that to try and emulate them could only court failure. The joy of true love accompanied by him on the ukelele and on the last stanza by her on the........ trumpet: and a beautiful little song. Is it the humour or the innocence brings a tear to your eye? Don't call the dog "life saver", call him "s***head" - and for evermore, he is. The white man who is distraught to discover that he is not black. The goodbye note and Martin reading bits of words as they are washed away. The seminal "all I need" scene which is milked to the point of asphixia. The Jerk is simply the funniest most understatedly clever movie ever produced. There has simply never been anything this good, nor will there ever be. The message is simple and is a very old one: the buffoon as saint. From Bottom in Shakespeare, to Tristram Shandy, to Chaplin, to the genius understatement of Cary Grant, to Norman Wisdom: they have all touched on and come tantalisingly close, but they have all lacked one ingredient, an ingrediant calledSteve Martin. Like Orson Welles and Kane or Frederick Forsyth and the Jackal or Men at Work and Land Down Under, Martin has played his best shot first, unfettered, undisciplined, unconstrained genius. Let us all be better, brighter, cleverer and genuinely funnier by being the jerk. And if that's too frightening, just watch it.
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