The Jerk: 26th Anniversary Edition


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Rating: R

Steve Martin as Navin R. Johnson/Cat Juggler/Pig Eye Jackson/Engineer Fred
Bernadette Peters as Marie Kimble Johnson
Catlin Adams as Patty Bernstein
Mabel King as Mother
Richard Ward as Father
Dick Anthony Williams as Taj Jonson
Bill Macy as Stan Fox
M. Emmet Walsh as Madman
Dick O’Neill as Frosty, Navin’s Boss
Maurice Evans as Hobart, Navin’s Butler
Helena Carroll as Hester, Navin’s Maid
Ren Woods as Elvira Jonson

Special Features:
Learn How to Play “Tonight You Belong to Me”

The Lost Filmstrips of Father Carlos Las Vegas de Cordova

Theatrical Trailer

Production Notes

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Digital 2.0 Mono
Spanish and French Language
Spanish and French Subtitles
Running Time: 1 Hour 34 Minutes

This film was originally released in 1979. The following is from the DVD cover:

“That wild and crazy guy, Steve Martin, makes his film-starring debut in the wacky comedy hit The Jerk. Steve portrays Navin Johnson, adopted son of a poor black sharecropper family, whose crazy inventions lead him from rags to riches and right back to rags. Along the way, he’s smitten with a lady motorcycle racer, survives a series of screwball attacks by a deranged killer, becomes a millionaire by inventing the “Opti-grab” handle for glasses – and shows why he’s one of the hottest comic performers in the world.”

The Jerk: 26th Anniversary Edition is rated R.

The Movie:
It’s been a long time since I watched The Jerk all the way through. To top it off, the last few times I watched it was the edited version on TV. So seeing it on the 26th Anniversary Edition DVD was my first time to see it all unedited in quite some time. I found it to be a bit of a mixed bad.

On the bright side, it still offers up a lot of laughs. “I was born a poor black child” is still one of the funniest lines that opened a movie. The scenes with the Madman shooting out the cans also delivers a lot of chuckles. Some scenes with a motorcycle stuntwoman at a traveling carnival were also funny though I think they were deleted from the TV version. It was also a treat to be able to see Steve Martin again in his “wild and crazy guy” mode. His comedy is a lot more subtle these days, so it was fun to revisit his career origins here.

On the down side, a lot of the jokes haven’t aged all that well. A scene where Navin’s head spins around is just plain stupid. Then there’s the elaborate disco scene between him and Bernadette Peters that really dates the movie. Other gags with Martin kung-fu fighting a group of mobsters, developing the Opti-Grab, or chasing a kid on a runaway train just fall flat altogether.

If you’ve never seen The Jerk, then I recommend checking it out at least once. Just be forgiving and remember it came out in 1979. If you’ve seen it in the past and want to check it out again, just keep in mind it may not be quite as funny as you remember.

The Extras:
There’s a disappointing lack of bonus features on this DVD. There’s no interview with Martin, commentary by Carl Reiner, or even a photo gallery. Instead you are offered ukulele lessons on how to play “Tonight You Belong To Me” and a recently filmed gag that is supposedly the “lost filmstrips of Father Carlos Las Vegas De Cordova”. They try to make the footage look like the “cat juggling” film from the movie. In it we are treated to fish taunting, dressing animals up in costumes, and other benign forms of animal torture. It’s good for a couple of chuckles, but not much more.

The Bottom Line:
The Jerk has aged considerably in 26 years, but it still has enough good laughs to make it worth checking out, especially if you’ve never seen it before.