Starring: Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters, Catlin Adams and Jackie Mason
Release Date: December 14, 1979
Okay one more thing regarding Steve Martin and then we'll try to leave him alone for a while. It may seem odd that this is the third thing in less than three weeks regarding Mr. Martin but I guess that's how things go. I saw "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" which inspired me to take "Born Standing Up: A Comics Life" from the book shelf which caused me to want to see Steve Martin's "The Jerk". I've just started reading "Lost in the Funhouse: The Life and Mind of Andy Kaufman" written by Bill Zehme(so you can expect that review soon and then we'll likely review "Man on the Moon" while we are at it.) but I digress.
The first thing that took me a bit aback was the fact the title "The Jerk" never seemed to cause any controversy in the media. All of my research turned up nothing. Apparently to refer to someone as a "jerk" didn't carry the same weight that it does today.(For the record my rule of thumb is if a child referred to someone as a "jerk" I would correct them and help them pick a different demeaning term). The second thing was the "R" rating it received. Now after viewing the movie there is definitely some coarse language and probably enough adult themes to warrant that same "R" rating today, so kiddies beware.
"The Jerk" is a work of love and it shows from beginning to end. Written by and starring Steve Martin "The Jerk" is based off of a bit he used to do while performing stand-up in which he would say he was born "a poor black child" (this set-up leads to one of the best laughs in the whole movie). The movie itself is essentially the classic coming of age/rags to riches story line but with an imbecile as the main character.
Directed by Carl Reiner(he also makes a cameo as himself) the "The Jerk" moves along with solid pacing. He does a good job of introducing all the lead characters in a timely fashion and, although this is an absurdest story, he does a great job of keeping things consistent and in the realm of reality.
This movie did extremely well the year it came out becoming the 9th highest grossing film that year and I can understand why. Steve Martin is near the peak of his popularity performing stand-up and I'm sure a fair amount of people were drawn in based upon his name alone. In addition to the star power of Martin the movie is very, very funny and worthy of seeing multiple times. Finally, like a good wine, the movie seems to be getting better with age, it is consistently named one of the Top 100 Comedies of all time regardless of the organization and I suspect a hundred years from now they will still be talking about the classic comedy "The Jerk".