The Jerk

The Jerk

I hope you find what you’re looking for.

Steve Martin, as a comedian, never really jived with me. I don’t really know him as a stand-up, but I know some of his films, and from what I’ve seen, we can do better in the annals of movie comedy. So when I saw that his breakout feature The Jerk had made the list, I was a little miffed that I’d be essentially forced to sit through another Steve Martin picture. My expectations going into this were: it’d be basically like damn near every other post-1950s comedy that’s on the list, that it’ll exist solely as a vehicle for the central comedian’s style of comedy, and that style of comedy will consist largely of Steve Martin acting like a buffoon or an idiot, and little else. Turns out I was right on the mark.

Martin is Navin Johnson, a white man who spent his life growing up with a black family while somehow remaining ignorant to the fact that he was obviously adopted. Oh wait, not somehow; as per typical Martin characterization, Navin is a blissful idiot. Anyway, for some arbitrary reason involving his rhythm problems and a song on the radio, he decides to head out to see the big world and make something of himself, all while circumstances happen to which Navin remains idyllically blind to. Once again, I had to pretty much pad this middle section, because the film itself left me with no notes that I had written down while watching it, which in this film’s case speaks for itself. I didn’t write any notes because I couldn’t come up with anything noteworthy, positive or negative, about the film (though in hindsight, that may have indeed been a factor); I didn’t write any notes because I was so disinterested in the film. This wasn’t nearly as bad as Up in Smoke, but for me, it certainly wasn’t enjoyable; literally all of the comedy in the film comes from watching Martin bumble around in manufactured stupidity, and that’s something that I’ve just never found funny. This was no exception. The only exception there was was the name of the dog Navin picks up on his travels; I got a cheap laugh or two out of the recurring joke.

Well, that’s really about it. Another one checked off my list, I suppose. Frankly, I’m just happy I got through it okay, and even happier I don’t have to go through it again. Unless for some wacko reason I decide to take this trip down the list a second time, but if that is ever actually the case, it’s films like The Jerk that let me know that I should keep a second outing to only the positive experiences the list has to offer. While this may qualify for some, it sure as hell didn’t for me. I’d continue, but it would be needlessly padding length without actual gratifying content, but hey; that might just qualify as irony, in The Jerk’s case.

Arbitrary Rating: 5/10


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