Best Movies of All Time + Steve Martin



The Jerk is a 1979 comedy film directed by Carl Reiner that tells the story of a man named Navin R. Johnson (Steve Martin) as he makes his way away from home and into the real world. After spending most of his life believing himself to be of African-American descent, the whiter-than-white Navin is told by his mother (Mabel King) that he isn't her biological son; rather, he was left on the family's doorstep as an infant. This revelation allows Navin to piece together a couple of puzzling aspects of his life, and he soon decides to set out on his own in an attempt to make a name for himself. He heads to St. Louis where he lands a job at a gas station where he makes a pact with a customer to share any profits made from something he invented. When a random man attempts to kill him after reading his name in phone book, Navin quickly makes his escape. He finds work with a traveling carnival as a weight guesser and meets two women: Patty (Catlin Adams), a dirt-bike daredevil who takes Navin's virginity, and Marie (Bernadette Peters), who Navin falls for almost instantly. After a short affair, Marie leaves Navin, forcing him to take his troubled soul to Los Angeles where he meets the gas station customer who made a fortune on Navin's invention. The man gives him his share of the profits, making him a millionaire overnight.

I don't want to go into any more of the plot details for fear of giving away too many spoilers, but to be fair, I don't think I'd really be ruining any lives by doing so. A lot of people have recommended this film to me in the past, so I figured I'd give it a shot. Older Steve Martin fare generally tends to pass as acceptable, but I just couldn't find a way to get into this one. It really all stems from the screenplay. For me to be hooked into a film, there needs to be some semblance of a storyline, and that's where The Jerk falls a little short for me. It just felt like a series of random occurrences that somehow formed a slight bit of a story, and the jokes are a little too goofy for my personal tastes. Apparently that was the point behind the film, but it didn't hook me in the slightest, but that's not to say that you won't find it rather hilarious.

This really is Martin's vehicle, and he does relatively well considering the screenplay. He brings a good degree of energy to his role, and he alone makes the film somewhat successful. He does get a little too over-the-top at points, but for the most part, Steve Martin is your standard Steve Martin. Peters is very good as our lead female in the film, but she did get a little too whiny for me at certain points in the film. We do have a couple of smaller roles that prove to be rather brilliant. For example, the aforementioned Catlin Adams is good for a few great scenes with some fantastic one-liners. Director Carl Reiner portrays himself in the film's best scene (in my opinion) - it's a gut-busting moment that had me dying with laughter. And for those of you who are paying close attention, you'll find Carl's son Rob Reiner making a cameo.

Overall, The Jerk has its moments, but in its entirety, I couldn't possibly bring myself to recommend it completely. Everyone else I know who's seen this film tends to like it, so I feel like I'm definitely in the minority, but I suppose I'm entitled to my opinion just like everyone else. I just couldn't find a way to get into the flick, and that just doesn't bode well for The Jerk.

Movie Review Summary:Grade: C
Thumbs Sideways

1979, Bernadette Peters, Carl Reiner, Catlin Adams, comedy, Jerk, Mabel King, movie review, Rob Reiner, and more:

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