One of Steve Martin's funniest films, The Jerk was far ahead of its time, part of a genre of off-the-wall, ridiculous comedies that would later dominate the box office throughout the 1990s. Films such as The Waterboy, Dumb And Dumber, and Zoolander have since taken the idea of an outlandish, exaggerated character and turned him into the star of a comic screenplay. In The Jerk, as in the aforementioned films, unfortunate events happen to the outcast reject, and the audience laughs. It's merely an extension of the old Charlie Chaplin or Three Stooges genre of film. But The Jerk is definitely a funny movie.
A bona fide idiot, Navin Johnson (Steve Martin) is nevertheless a kind and well-grounded man. Born in Mississippi, Navin is adopted into a black family, but remains clueless in regard to his origins. When Navin turns 18, he decides to strike out on his own (which takes the entire day since he decides to hitchhike and hours pass before the first car drives by). Navin initially gets a job at a service station where owner Harry Hartounian (Jackie Mason) takes advantage of Navin's work ethic and a deranged killer makes an attempt on Navin's life.
Eventually, Navin moves on to work for a carnival where he meets his future wife Marie (Bernadette Peters). Navin and Marie are in for the ride of a lifetime when a salesman passing through Navin's old service station turns one of Navin's inventions into a blockbuster product. The royalties make Navin a multimillionaire, but money cannot buy everything, and Navin and Marie must work together to be happy.
Some of the scenes from The Jerk, such as when Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters are in lying in bed, and Martin says "It feels like I've known you forever…" (and then continues with his endless monologue) can stand alone in making The Jerk worth any viewer's time. It's also hilarious when Navin gets "published" in the phone book only to have a killer randomly select him for death.
By no means the greatest film ever made, The Jerk has its high points, and I recommend watching it once just to see if it's your cup of tea.
With a number of memorable scenes, The Jerk is a well-written (from a comic standpoint) screenplay which keeps the laughs constantly rolling down the line. Steve Martin is brilliant in his portrayal of the innocent and naïve Navin Johnson. The character's endless optimism and quest to please makes him an instantly likeable character film viewers want to root for. A modern-day cult comedy classic, The Jerk is well-deserving of its designation as a must-see film. If you haven't seen it, then you don't know what you're missing.
Britt's Rating: 8.9/10