Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Jerk (1979)

Steve Martin makes such a nice colored fellow.

Any movie that starts with Steve Martin saying "I was born a poor black child" has to be good and The Jerk makes good on this promise. The Jerk isn't the first movie people think about when listing the best comedies ever made, somehow the movie continues to stay under a lot of peoples radar, but it offers a handful of the funniest scenes and quotes ever put on film. The Jerk mixes high and low comedy masterfully and it lives on the enthusiasm of it's leading man. These things make the movie an absolute blast to watch and it has, arguably, some of the funniest moments ever put on film.

The Jerk is the story of Navin Johnson, Steve Martin who also wrote the film, a poor black child from rural Mississippi. He is a happy boy, even though he has absolutely no rhythm, but he doesn't quite fit in with his family. He sets off from home, ready to make something of himself. On his journey he encounters the dangers of the world including Jews, snipers and motorcycle riding women. Directed by Carl Reiner, the movie also features Bernadette Peters as the love of Navin's life. The movie was relatively successful and is generally well liked to this day. Even with the warm critical and fan reception, the movie has only accrued a decent cult following rather than the recognition it deserves as a comedy classic.

When looking at The Jerk, everything boils down to Steve Martin. Comedy is all about commitment, energy and personality and Martin has tons of all three. The movie is full of low-brow physical humor, but most of the jokes in the movie are actually pretty sophisticated and well written. You just have to pay attention to notice that there is a lot more going on here than simple physical comedy. Martin is the king of this kind of comedy. He has the uncanny ability to be a total goof-ball and to be exceptionally witty at the same time. He is the star of the show and the number one reason to see the movie. I could go on and on about the movie and all the reasons it is funny. The film has some amazing one liners and some scenes that are downright classic, but you'll find that out when you watch it.

The Jerk is, hands-down, a comedy classic. This is Steve Martin at his best and one of those movies that needs to be seen by more people. This movie is the origin of a lot of modern comedies, movies like Anchorman owe their existence to The Jerk. The film stands as both influential and extremely enjoyable and it's definitely deserving of it's place on the 1000 movies to see list.



Mike Lippert said...

I'm sad to say that I finally caught up with this movie last year and suprisingly hated it. I didn't think it had any comedy momentum whatsoever and really Steve Martin is really annonying in this. I'm glad you liked it and you wrote a good review in it's defense but I don't think anything can convince me of this films worth.

Simon said...

Steve Martin better get his shit together soon. This movie just makes me mournful.

Alfindeol said...

@ Mike

I can understand not liking the film. To be fair, the style of comedy here is not everyone's cup of tea. It's goofy and Martin's buffoonery drives some people nuts. I found his outlandishness really enduring and enjoyed the movie because of it.

Klaus said...

I saw the Jerk the first night it was released in theatres, as well as the following night. Steve Martin's comedy style in the late 1970s was original and he was never funnier than he was in the Jerk. At the time, a lot of people never got his absurd style of comedy - guess things haven't changed.