The Jerk (1979) Poster

(1979)

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Laugh so hard, you'll miss half the movie
MIK7x327 May 2000
I'm glad that I didn't see this in the theatre, because when I watched it the first time on video, I needed to pause the movie several times just to catch my breath from laughing so hard! Wait a minute...was that the first time, or the tenth time? Playing Navin R. Johnson, the white son of a black family, Steve Martin leaves home to find "his special purpose." By the end of the movie, we all know what that was...to entertain his fans the way he has! As for Navin's special purpose, if you haven't already seen the movie, you aren't going to get any more information than what's here. It takes intelligence to play a complete idiot, and Steve Martin does the job extremely well. Also take note of Martin's costar Bernadette Peters, and the cameo appearances by Jackie Mason and Carl Reiner. Whoever wrote that people who watch "The Jerk" will be quoting its jokes for years after was absolutely right. This was the funniest of Steve Martin's movies!
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10/10
Overwhelmingly and brilliantly funny with genius throwaways.
douglasreid-124 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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Steve Martin Carries the Film to the Top
tfrizzell13 April 2001
Steve Martin's out-of-this-world performance is the main calling card of this hilarious comedy. Martin stars as a moron who has been raised by a poor African-American family. One night after hearing some music on the radio, he decides that it is time for him to go find his place in the world. What follows is a poor man's "Forrest Gump". Martin gets into some odd situations and goes from the bottom of the social ladder, to the top, and then to the bottom again. This is a flat-out comedy that is a laugh-a-minute romp. 4 stars out of 5.
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10/10
Lord loves a workin' man; don't trust whitey; see a doctor and get rid of it.
ajdagreat10 June 2001
Why is the rating for "The Jerk" so low? Every comment said that this movie was hilarious! Hey, anyone out there who gave "The Jerk" a low rating, come write a comment! I don't even know what's not to like about this movie. The script is extremely funny. The naive, ambitious Navin Johnson is the role that Steve Martin was born to play. This is one of the funniest movies ever (any fans of my comments know that I say that often, but I really mean it!).

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.
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10/10
Way ahead of its time ! ! The original spoof !!! The CORE-tickler :P
kellwyn868 September 2014
Excellent is an understatement for the actors and director of this 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 !
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7/10
Martin In His Wild & Crazy Days
ccthemovieman-111 July 2006
A very popular movie in its day, watching it a couple of years ago wasn't the same. Oh, it was still funny but just not the "hilarious" movie I always remembered it as. Maybe its reputation and memory exceeded its value, or maybe it's funnier when you are younger.

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.
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9/10
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.
MovieAddict201611 March 2003
The Jerk - 4.5/5 Country: US Language: English Year: 1979 Rating: R Director: Carl Reiner Starring: Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters, Mable King, M. Emmet Walsh

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.
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10/10
One of Steve Martin's best films
TheLittleSongbird25 September 2010
I honestly cannot decide which Steve Martin film is my favourite between The Jerk, Man with Two Brains and Planes, Trains and Automobiles, because I love all three and he is wonderful in all three. As for Navin Johnson, he takes on the role of a simple-minded and naive man to perfection. The film looks good, has a funny script, good direction and a lovely story. And the jokes are heavenly, particularly the one where he makes a fortune inventing an absurd nose support for spectacles. Bernadette Peters, looking gorgeous by the way, matches him every step of the way. Overall, there is very little I can say that hasn't been said already, other than to say The Jerk is one of Martin's best and funniest. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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10/10
One of The Greatest Comedies of All Time! You'll laugh Till You Cry!
jbartelone28 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
It's a pleasure for me to review such a brilliant movie! The comedy is pure genius, not only because of the writing and directing, but the incredible performance of Steve Martin, playing the world's most lovable, humorous, "Jerk," Navin R. Johnson! We all know the story by now, and if anyone hasn't seen this movie you've been living under a rock for 28 years!

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!"
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10/10
A truly silly movie,top to bottom
S.R. Dipaling8 December 2005
Steve Martin's first starring role movie could be argued to have been an extension of his wildly popular stand-up routines of the 1970s. Perhaps so,but this movie to me seems to be also an exercise in making a truly silly movie,one that isn't really concerned with plausibility or irony.

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!
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10/10
Steve Martin is the funniest man ever. Period.
dirtydan115 January 2002
I am 16 years old. Therefore, i was not even around when this movie was made. The one day, though, i was walking through the movie store, and i saw a sign that said 2 movies for ten dollars. So, with my dads advice, i bought this movie. I watched it, and couldn't stop laughing the whole way through. I realized that Steve Martin is the funniest man ever. Period. Second to none. This movie was the funniest movie I've ever seen, and it got me hooked on other Steve Martin movies. Since then, I seen Planes Trains and Automobiles, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, the Father of the Bride movies, and i can't get enough of him. I can only hope that he starts to act in more comedies, because i haven't seen him in any for a while. My rating for The Jerk is ten out of ten, two thumbs up, and five out of five stars. Thank you, Steve Martin.
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A Hilarious concept
JohnnyJohnHildegaard19 August 1999
The Jerk is a great movie that stands out to the world. It's unique and fun in it's different way. Steve Martin plays a simple-minded man who strikes it rich and then falls back to the low-class way. The best part of the movie is the dialogue, it spreads from Martin's tasteless quotes to a different tone everytime. It's a classic movie... Even if it sometimes falls flat.
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8/10
What makes the jerk amazing is it is the closest thing SM stand up!
veganflimgeek11 January 2004
I think that Steve Martin as a stand-up comic was brilliant beyond most people's understanding. His humor often werid ,intelligent and always funny is among the best ever. The jerk is his only movie that feels like Steve martin stand up. To some level so does the man with two brains put the jerk is amazing on that level.

If you are even paying attention to the camera direction, or anything technical about this film you just don't get it. I have seen the Jerk so many times I know it by heart and i swear I laugh everytime. Best comedy ever. YES!
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8/10
Great Laugh
rebecca-ry21 October 2012
'The Jerk' is one of Steve Martin's first major feature films and today it shows the starting point of his fantastic movie career.

Martin himself acts brilliantly, and of course provides 90% of the films' comedy. He plays an adorable yet idiotic middle-aged man whose trying to begin his adult life on his own. Supporting roles from Bernadette Peters and Catlin Adams are performed very well and are great additions to the film. Even the cameo by Jackie Mason is hilarious.

The script is a bit familiar but the dialogue and slap-stick routines and scenes are brilliantly choreographed by the director, writers and actors alike.

Overall, this is a classic comedy film with some great laughs and can be enjoyed by all.
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8/10
"He Hates Cans!!"
Aaron137510 December 2009
This was one of Steve Martin's early movies and one of his funnier ones if a bit weak on storyline which is why I prefer "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" as it is a more complete movie than this one. Still, this one is funny and Martin was on a roll then as he had a couple of other good movies during this time too in "The Lonely Guy", "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid", and "The Man With Two Brains". One has to wonder what has happened to him in more recent years as he is all but disappeared only coming out to make the occasional horrid Pink Panther movie. This one has a bit of a plot, but not really all that much of one as it is mainly a man telling a story about how he ended up living in the street. Raised by a black family and being obviously not black this man set out to make a life for himself. He still wrote his family quite often and sent money home so a rather decent if not to intelligent guy. Seriously the movie's title is kind of funny as the guy is not really much of a jerk as he is just a simple guy trying to find a job and help out his family. The movie is at its best as he plods from one job to another, it gets a bit weaker near the end as he gets a lot of money, though it is still funny there too especially when he writes one letter telling his family about all the stuff he wanted and now has. The best parts of the movie though for me came at the gas station where he had a job as an attendant and a guy picks his name out of a phone book. That scene was priceless the first time I saw it and had me laughing wildly.
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8/10
Steve Martin excels in his first lead role
Woodyanders16 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Hopelessly dim-witted bumbler Navin Johnson (marvelously played to the doltish hilt by Steve Martin) leaves his adopted family of impoverished black sharecroppers and goes out into the world to find his purpose in life. Navin goes from being dirt poor to filthy rich right back to being flat broke again. Director Carl Reiner relates the delightfully off-the-wall plot at a constant snappy pace and brings a certain infectiously screwball charm to the often uproariously wacky humor. Moreover, the film has a truly inspired sense of the absurdity in everyday life, with Navin's endearing naiveté representing the lovable innocence of a blithely clueless man-child who's never completely grown up. Martin shines in his first starring role (he also co-wrote the cheerfully inane, yet still witty script), with terrific support from Bernadette Peters as Navin's sweet, adorable girlfriend Marie Kimble, Mabel King as Navin's warm, loving mother, Richard Ward as Navin's long-suffering father, Catlin Adams as tough, scruffy, brassy motorcycle racer Patty Bernstein, Jackie Mason as irascible gas station owner Harry Hartounian, Bill Macy as hot-tempered salesman Stan Fox, Dick O'Neill as crusty carnival owner Frosty, and, in an especially sidesplitting part, M. Emmet Walsh as a crazed sniper who's determined to bag Navin. Hilarious comic highlights include Navin getting all excited over seeing his name in the phone book, the black and white movie about the nefarious sport of cat juggling, and Navin beating up a bunch of Mafia con artists with some fancy martial arts moves. Jack Elliott's lively score and Victor J. Kemper's slick cinematography are both up to par. But it's the way the madcap story breezes from one kooky situation to the next with such tremendous verve and giddy silliness which really makes this picture a total gut-busting hoot to watch.
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7/10
I was born a poor black child…The Jerk
jaredmobarak5 October 2008
It was sheer dumb luck that while reading Steve Martin's autobiography earlier this year I saw his film The Jerk was being shown on TV. A few months later and the threat of my DVR being erased, I finally took the time to view it. Martin definitely did something special, infusing his stand-up routine into a story of one man's rise to wealth and subsequent loss of everything. His crazy persona takes center stage right from the start as we meet Navin Johnson, not a bum on the street, but a jerk who has lost it all. His slowed down drunk speech and deep tones as he begins to tell the camera the story of his life set up the collection of gags and jokes you can't even imagine will come your way. Here we have a man that was born into a black southern family, always wondering why his skin was so light and why he could never keep up with the rhythm of blues music. With a penchant for Twinkies and Tab cola, something was amiss and only when he heard a strange new song on the radio, one his white body could dance to, does he realize he needed to see the world and show it his "special purpose".

I really think I wouldn't have enjoyed my time with this character if I hadn't read Martin's book first. Knowing his stand-up background made it fun to spot tired and true aspects throughout the movie. You have the juggling, the ukulele, and the "all I need is this ashtray, and I don't need anything else, well except this paddle-game, all I need is this ashtray and the paddle-game … and these matches …" schtick that surprising goes on long in the film, but never gets old. I think it has to do with the way it is shot, in a still-framed composition as he gradually goes further and further away, his voice getting softer and softer. It really is well-orchestrated and credit goes to either he or director Carl Reiner for the success. There are definite lulls in the action, as is inherent in films like this being a stream of jokes tied together, but there is bound to be some failures amongst the true gems. When the laughs hit, though, they hit pretty hard—even if it might just be because of how off-the-wall the gag is.

For a guy like Martin, fresh off of his club appearances and television variety shows, he is quite a natural. The Jerk marks his first major film role, the lead part in his own movie, something that shows how powerful he was based on record sales alone and no real reputation for acting on screen. He gets his wild and crazy guy dancing involved along with other staples from his repertoire to help the audience find their bearings and remember that this is the guy they hear at home every night for laughs. This really is the start of a powerhouse's career and he planned it out to perfection.

Having a supporting cast like he does can't hurt either. Bernadette Peters did not have many film jobs beforehand, probably just known mostly for her stage work. Her vocal prowess is on display as well as her comedic timing and blank face reactions to Martin's antics. I don't know if anyone else could have taken his face lick with such class. Martin's family is a lot of fun too, always singing and dancing and trying their best to make him a part of the group. I really enjoyed Dick Anthony Williams as his brother Taj. This is the one person who understands the absurdity of the situation and when Navin writes home about the possibility of a new job from his girlfriend, Williams' smirk and laughter is absolutely fantastic.

A lot works and plenty doesn't, but when you understand the film's place in history, you must give it a lot of credit. People took a chance on this unproven young man and ushered in a new era of comedians. With "Saturday Night Live" beginning it's perpetual lifespan around the same time, The Jerk became a sign of things to come. If you look at the comedy world today, everything seems to be manifested from the minds of comedians who started on stage or in TV. Shows are based on comedy acts and films molded from characters. Most of them fail miserably, but the strong success of a select few keep the money flowing, hoping to discover that next new cash cow. With scenes like those at the gas station here, Navin's first real job, you can't help but feel as though it could have been a skit translated and expanded for screen. Between Jackie Mason's utter wonderment at his employee's penchant for jubilance and M. Emmet Walsh's search for a random civilian to murder, the scene is the highlight of a film chock full of good one-liners. When Martin looks at the exploding oil cans and then at the gun-toting whackjob, he screams, "that guy really hates cans!" I couldn't stop laughing as he gets cornered by a coca-cola machine and a can display indoors. It is comedy gold and with plenty more to complement, you will be smiling once the credits roll.
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8/10
Steve Martin in his prime and at his funniest
SmileysWorld22 September 2008
As many films as Steve Martin has done,it is this one,his first feature film,that most people remember because this is Steve in his prime and at his wildest and funniest.It contains one of the greatest mixtures of physical and verbal humor that I personally have ever seen.Martin's chemistry with Bernadette Peters is nothing short of great.It is,ironically,a smart comedy about someone who is not so smart.In fact,he is a total imbecile who stumbles onto the big time only to trip and fall on his rear back into the small time.One of the funniest moments is the brief appearance of the film's director,Carl Reiner,playing himself as a victim of Navin Johnson's defective invention.I think the key to a good comedy is giving the viewer a mixture of things we have never seen before that are fresh and new,and adding that to the old stuff that we have seen before and putting your own unique twist to them.The Jerk does this with flying colors.
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7/10
Odd, clever humor makes "Jerk" lovable
Movie_Muse_Reviews7 August 2008
"The Jerk" is an easy watch, something you can take in quickly and get plenty of good laughs from. While it's not a comedy that strings together laugh-out-loud moments, it has its unique brand of humor grounded in both absurdity and plays on words. It's the kind of humor that's either a hit with someone or doesn't quite do it for them. The more you look back and recall lines and moments from this film, however, the more it grows on you. It's not about the big laughs, but the little things that make "The Jerk" special.

Steve Martin stars as Navin Johnson, a man who grew up thinking he was black and eventually sets out to find his greater purpose. Johnson is naive, stupid, ignorant, but lovable guy, and the film shows how the people around him turn him into...a jerk. This is easily Martin's best character role. He does such a great job handling the subtlety of the humor without playing the absurd moments too over-the-top. He really carries this film.

The odd humor manifests itself through jokes like when Johnson tells his girlfriend Marie (Bernadette Peters) what their time together has felt like, describing first day as feeling like a week, the second day felt like two days, etc. and when he writes home to his family and says "remember when I dreamed about having a big house with _____?" and then he describes with great detail all the absurd rooms in his mansion he could never have actually dreamed of as a child. It's all very original and will definitely appeal more to people who appreciate what makes each joke funny.

So the writing, which is mostly Martin and the acting, which is mostly Martin, are the aspects of the film most worthy of praise. None of the other characters are really written well enough to add anything significant to the comedy, so its the Steven Martin Show. In fact, if you'd told me he did it based on a Saturday Night Live character I would have easily believed you. Either way, this is an odd but easy to love, easy to watch comedy. It's truly different and definitely stands out.
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9/10
From rags to riches and to rags again
Petri Pelkonen28 December 2007
Navin R. Johnson is an unbelievably stupid man.He is an adopted son of a black family and he doesn't get he is adopted.Then at his 18th birthday he realizes he wants to see the world.So he leaves Missisippi behind and heads to St.Louis.Soon he has all he's ever dreamed of, including the girl.In this case that girl is Marie Kimble.Carl Reiner is the director of The Jerk (1979).Mr.Reiner also has a funny cameo there.Steve Martin had a huge success with this comedy, which he was also writing.Bernadette Peters plays the woman opposite him.They make a fantastic couple.Other talents seen in this movie are Jackie Mason (Harry Hartounian), M.Emmet Walsh (Madman) etc.There are many funny gags in this movie.I can see a little of Jerry Lewis in Steve Martin's comedy especially in this movie.There is that same physicality there.This movie was made for Mr.Martin.He raises it from mediocrity.
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8/10
When is a jerk not a jerk ?
ianlouisiana8 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Navin Johnson is a simpleton,good-hearted,endlessly optimistic,a nice guy but definitely dumb.He is not a "jerk" as I understand the term.There is an inference of unpleasantness in "jerk" that does not fit with Navin's persona.If I have an issue at all with Mr Martin's feature debut it is with the title otherwise it is very good indeed.He is at his best doing dumb,the cannier he gets the more boring and less funny his films become. Thee are glorious moments in most of them but "The Jerk" is the purest expression of his gifts.He is so sublimely stupid that he reminds me of Stan Laurel,a resemblance heightened in the later "Trains,Planes and Automobiles"where the late John Candy took the Oliver Hardy role. Adopted by a poor black family and treated as one of their own he eventually learns the harsh facts of life"you mean I'll always be this colour?" and sets off to make his own way in the world.Eventually he gets a job as a garage hand employed by the incomparable Jackie Mason,where he encounters a homicidal maniac (M.Emmet Walsh) armed with a high-powered rifle who is fortunately a very bad shot,a gang of Hispanic thugs who present him with a stolen credit card ("thank you Mrs Nussbaum")and a salesman (Rob Reiner)whose glasses keep on falling off. From these simple beginnings develops the main plot.Navin makes millions from a simple invention for taking your glasses on and off then loses it again when everybody that uses it goes cross-eyed.He finds true love in the form of Bernadette Peters and is eventually reunited with his family after hitting rock bottom.That's an awful lot to fit into one movie ,without counting a sex mad female stunt rider and a dog calles "shithead".Lovers of sophisticated comedy,surreal comedy,alternative comedy etc can give this one a miss.If you just want a real good belly-laugh and to listen to Bernadette Peters doing Louis Armstrong licks on her cornet....go no further.
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10/10
What a life!
Lee Eisenberg9 July 2005
Steve Martin plays Navin Johnson, a loser who hits it big when he designs an unusual set of glasses. I don't know whether this was Martin's funniest performance ever, or even whether this was his funniest movie Carl Reiner-directed movie (the others are "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid", "The Man with Two Brains" and "All of Me"). But believe you me, IT WAS FUNNY! A rags-to-riches story with a series of gags, you can't stop laughing, especially when you watch Navin's trouble keeping time when his family is playing music (note: Navin's family is black, and he believes himself to be African-American, only to later find out that he's white), and later when you hear Navin's dog's name. There's some good support from Bernadette Peters as Navin's wife Marie, Jackie Mason as one of Navin's employers, and Carl Reiner as himself. Hilarious as only Reiner could do it.
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10/10
Idiocy, Lunacy, and Sheer Brilliance
sideshowcody31 July 2004
I normally find Steve Martin's comedy quite lame, goofball, or just insipid. But this, my friends, is the funniest movie of all time. Every joke hits right on target, and the rapid fire, yet ignorant delivery of Navin, is brilliant. Bernadette Peters is his equally goofy girlfriend, and is, quite surprisingly, a very good talent of this film. Jackie Mason also puts in quite a good performance. Be warned, however: this is not a comedy for all, however. If you find yourself laughing only at physical comedy, stay away. If you can appreciate a funny series of quick monologues and discourses, come and see the funniest film ever.

In my opinion.
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10/10
A True Classic
Spaceballs7 July 2002
Carl Reiner shines as director and Steve Martin & Bernadette Peters shine as Navin Johnson and his future bride. The film opens up somewhere down south with Navin and the family of sharecroppers who took him in. Navin begins to see how "different" he is from his family and they soon tell him he was adopted. His mother (Mabel King) proudly tells him she would love him if he was "the colour of a baboon's *ss. Navin soonafter leaves home going out on the road in front of his house. He then begins hitchhiking when a truck comes down the road, the guy stops and says to Navin. "How far ya goin?" Navin says. "St.Louis, how far you going to which the driver says "To the enda this fence". Navin says"Ok" hops in throws his bag into the back of the truck and rides to the end of the fence. The film has similar events(you can't help but laugh) at Steve Martin's style and skill at being comedic in whatever he does. He then finds a job at a gas station owned by (Jackie Mason) who offers Navin a job as president of Texaco Oil (go figure) The film had me laughing start to finish.
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8/10
Funnier with time!
jjh651929 August 2002
I saw "The Jerk" several times on the screen when it first released and then I have watched it either as a video or on TV (the butchered version, where the dog "Shithead" gets changed to "Stupid", etc.). I always thought it was funny, if not more than a little stupid. Even so, it's been quite a while since I've seen the original version.

Well, about a week or so ago, my 14-year-old grandson asked me if I wanted to watch "Joe Dirt" with him, and based upon the reviews I had read, I wanted to say no, but I could tell it was important to him. Well, "Joe Dirt" is by no means that great, but I was amazed that I found myself laughing at it. And after the movie was over, it occurred to me that, if my grandson liked this story-of-a-loser's-life-as-told-by-the-loser, he would at least enjoy "The Jerk", which uses a similar plot device. Of course, "The Jerk" is not at all as raunchy and gross as "Joe Dirt", which tries to emulate the Farrelly brothers. But I still had hope that my grandson might enjoy it, so I rented it so we could watch it together.

My grandson roared! I have never heard him laugh so loud and so often while watching any movie. He could not contain himself during the scenes in Navin Johnson's old shack of a home, where he believed he grew up as a part of a poor but close African-American family in Mississippi. He loved the part when the crazy guy picks out Navin's name from the telephone book by pure chance, and tries to shoot him, but Navin, in his stupidity, thinks the guy is really trying to shoot the oil cans right next to him, because the crazed sniper (M. Everett Walsh) keeps accidentally hitting them when he misses Navin. And when Navin finally gets the courage to be intimate with Marie (Bernadette Peters), and as we are all expecting an amorous kiss, he licks the side of her face! OK, OK, it's stupid, but it's also hilarious! My grandson was roaring with laughter throughout, including the bit about "And I don't need anything! Well, I need this thing here. But I don't need anything else! Well, I need this..."

"The Jerk" made me laugh all over again. It has become funnier with age, even though some of the jokes are dated. (By the way, even a classic comedy such as "Blazing Saddles" has become dated due to its lame ending.)

And I noticed that some reviewers actually find "The Jerk" to be a racist movie. Why? Because of the one scene in which the N-word was used and turned into great satire? They must have watched a totally different film than the one I have watched over the years. Or has political correctness totally gone crazy and lost all sense of humor?
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