The Jerk (1979)

9.5 Overall Score
Story: 10/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great movie that hits all the right comedy notes


Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Jerk

Studio:  Aspen Film Society

Genre(s):  Comedy

Release Date(s):  December 14, 1979

MPAA Rating:  R


I was born a poor, black child…

Navin R. Johnson (Steve Martin) grows up a poor black child…never knowing he was actually adopted.  When he finds rhythm and the truth, he decides he must set out to see the world.   This leads to a gas station job (with evil oil cans), a circus weight-guessing stint (with a commanding wife), and the life of a millionaire inventor.  Navin finds love in Marie Kimble (Bernadette Peters) and learns new uses for his special purpose along the way.

Directed by Carl Reiner (who also appears in the film as himself), The Jerk was written by Steve Martin and found its basis in his stand-up.  The movie initially was met with average to positive reviews but quickly gained cult status with fans.  Now, The Jerk is often listed as one of the funniest films ever made.

The Jerk (by far) is my favorite Steve Martin film and one of my favorite comedies.  The movie blends the ridiculous, with wordplay, with physical comedy…and makes a great, quotable comedy that I find myself referencing often (too often).


The new phone books are here!!!

The script is quite smart.  It is the classic rise and fall of a man tale but almost a spoof (but not quite).  It is loaded with great one-liners, but the wide variety of the cast allows for different styles of humor to mesh into one film.  You could argue that it is a bit dated at points, but in my opinion that adds to the humor…the classiest of class for both Navin and Marie even in 1979 wasn’t classy but now it is horribly tacky.

Martin just gets it right here in his first feature film.  He gets the delivery the looks, and the interactions.  He’s perfectly paired with Bernadette Peters and can pull off nice scenes like “Tonight You Belong to Me” which turns from sweet to absurd when she pulls out a cornet.  The rest of the movie is loaded with comedians and great character actors like M. Emmet Walsh, Jackie Mason, Bill Macy, Maurice Evans, and Dick O’Neill…I could watch a whole movie about Navin’s family alone.


I’ve got a special purpose!

The movie is pretty standard comedy in style.  It will not wow you in that factor.  I do love some of the “location” shooting which obviously aren’t the locations (like St. Louis which looks a lot like Southern California).  The movie was obviously shot on a budget but it didn’t need to be big either for the type of film.

The Jerk is one of my favorites and I can (and have) watched it over and over again.  Who hasn’t had glee in the new phonebooks (a victim of the cell phones).  The movie hopefully will never be remade but it did have a “for pilot” 1984 TV film called The Jerk, Too with a new cast and Steve Martin producing.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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