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The Jerk (1979)

tomatometer

60

Average Rating: 6/10
Critic Reviews: 5
Fresh: 3 | Rotten: 2

No consensus yet.

audience

85

liked it
Average Rating: 3.6/5
User Ratings: 55,906

My Rating

Movie Info

Carl Reiner directs Steve Martin (who co-wrote the script with Carl Gottlieb) in this gag-laden comedy about an idiotic white man, raised by a poor family of black sharecroppers, who doesn't realize he's not black. Navin R. Johnson (Steve Martin) is told the horrible truth when he finds himself instinctively tapping his feet to an easy listening tune on the radio, instead of a low-down blues. His mother (Mabel King) tells him he's white and Navin takes to the road (in a World War II bomber

R,

Comedy

Carl Gottlieb, Steve Martin, Michael Elias

Jul 26, 2005

Universal Pictures

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All Critics (31) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (26) | Rotten (5) | DVD (26)

Its humor is successful and unsuccessful by turns, and although Comedian Carl Reiner is the director, the instinct here is to give most of both credit and blame to Martin.

February 2, 2009 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

An artless, non-stop barrage of off-the-wall situations, funny and unfunny jokes, generally effective and sometimes hilarious sight gags and bawdy non sequiturs.

February 2, 2009 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The comedy runs out of steam when the jerk makes good, but laugh for laugh it's probably a better investment than 10.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

We get the sense at times that the cast and crew arrived at a location, found the script bankrupt of real laughs, and started looking around for funny props.

July 5, 2005 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times | Comments (4)
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The laughs aren't steady, but they're persistent, and the film moves fast enough to compensate for its unevenness.

May 9, 2005 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

An oddball odyssey so strange, filled with non-sequiturs so funny, and decorated by a romance so sweet, it was an inevitable star-maker.

December 12, 2012 Full Review Source: Quickflix
Quickflix

92 minutes of direct and sweet surrealism

February 13, 2010 Full Review Source: CinePassion
CinePassion

If only he could have satisfied himself with this area of expertise, people would still talk of Steve Martin as one of the kings of comic cinema.

February 2, 2009 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

The whole thing is uneven and slight, but the highlight moments guilty-pleasure us with the sort of stupid-funny that's 'LOL' quotable afterward.

April 6, 2006 Full Review Source: DVDJournal.com
DVDJournal.com

Steve Martin is at the height of his comic powers in this very un-PC comedy.

January 25, 2006
ColeSmithey.com

While The Jerk is an extremely episodic little movie, that's a malady easily forgiven -- simply because the episodes are so damn funny.

July 31, 2005 Full Review Source: DVDTalk.com
DVDTalk.com

Martin's one-liners are pretty funny, very dry, and awfully quotable.

February 6, 2005 Full Review Source: Filmcritic.com
Filmcritic.com

Pretty funny star vehicle.

November 5, 2003
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

The next time Marting considers a script like BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE, he should watch this and remember when he was funny.

April 1, 2003 | Comment (1)
eFilmCritic.com

Classic Steve Martin

February 19, 2003
Henderson Home News (Henderson, NV)

Despite its shortcomings, THE JERK is a good example of how the big screen welcomes some comedians much more easily than others

September 30, 2002 Full Review
rec.arts.movies.reviews

An early watered down version of the crude comedy the Farrelly Brothers would later take to new extremes.

April 17, 2001 Full Review Source: BBC.com

Audience Reviews for The Jerk

i feel like this film gets funnier to me every time i watch it. martin and peters are both in top form. one of my favorite comedies of all time.
December 18, 2012
sanjurosamurai
danny d

Super Reviewer

The story delivered in THE JERK is nothing short of absolutely ridiculous. It‚(TM)s like a mockery of a mockery of a poor man‚(TM)s FORREST GUMP. A man sits down on a bench (or in this case, in the middle of nowhere) with a story in mind. It doesn‚(TM)t matter if he has an actual audience; he tells his story anyway. Steve Martin is incredible in his performance as Navin. He gives a performance that would be impossible for even the most talented comedian to emulate. What‚(TM)s great is that his character doesn‚(TM)t play out as a comedian. He doesn‚(TM)t act as a bum looking to impress people with his humor, nor does he look like he‚(TM)s acting stupid to evoke laughter. Rather naturally, he acts like an imbecile who truly doesn‚(TM)t know what he is doing, someone we can have fun laughing at without the character‚(TM)s expressed consent. If you need a picture painted, watch DUMB & DUMBER (if you want gross) or last year‚(TM)s TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL (if you want violent), but think of one of those stupid troupes as one homeless numbskull.

The reason this film seems a little less funny than it should be (though it is a hoot) may just be that it seems to be missing someone. DUMB & DUMBER came fifteen years after this, and it proved to work out much better, because there were two ‚jerks‚? in the story. With only one ‚jerk,‚? the story seems to be a stand-up act. Like I said, Martin certainly doesn‚(TM)t try to act like a comedian‚"he certainly is one already‚"but the story seems as if broken into uneven segments. It‚(TM)s like going to a stand-up comedy performance and suddenly becoming part of a skit. The supporting characters appear only for so long, and they always look like a witnessing audience laughing at Martin‚(TM)s character as if he‚(TM)s trying to be funny. (Just look at the expression on the gas station worker‚(TM)s face, for example, upon seeing Nevin open up a bathroom stall, thinking it was the door to the kitchen!) The only characters that seem to recur are Nevin‚(TM)s ‚family,‚? who we see in the beginning, in the very end, and occasionally in between reading the postcards they receive from Nevin. Again, Martin is pervasively in character, convincing as a true imbecile, so much that the supporting cast/audience seem to be having a ball in his little situations. That said, THE JERK is certainly funny, but it would have made much more sense as a truncated series of television episodes or shorts.
May 26, 2012
spielberg00

Super Reviewer

Few movies can stand the test of time like this one!! Love me some Steve Martin!
March 13, 2012
Tomassgringo

Super Reviewer

A genius exercise in the absurd that's also a watchable comedy. Truly a classic. Acting's a little weak and it has to get a little cheesy in order for there to be a resolution, but this is a can't-miss movie that had me howling.
February 4, 2012
danperry17

Super Reviewer

    1. Navin Johnson: No, Navin Johnson.
    – Submitted by Rob M (2 years ago)
    1. Madman: [aiming at Navin at the gas station] Die, gas pumper!
    – Submitted by Miles G (2 years ago)
    1. Patty Bernstein: [provocatively] You know what I wanna do?
    2. Navin Johnson: What's that?
    3. Patty Bernstein: Guess *your* weight. [starts squeezing on him everywhere]
    4. Navin Johnson: Hey, you're really trying to be accurate!
    – Submitted by Francis L (2 years ago)
    1. Navin Johnson: Good Lord - I've heard about this - cat juggling! Stop! Stop! Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Good. Father, could there be a God that would let this happen?
    – Submitted by Francis L (2 years ago)
    1. Madman: [points to Navin's name in the phone book] Johnson, Navin R... sounds like a typical bastard.
    – Submitted by Francis L (2 years ago)
    1. Navin Johnson: [Navin recites some wisdom] Lord loves a workin' man; don't trust whitey; see a doctor and get rid of it.
    – Submitted by Francis L (2 years ago)
View all quotes (16)

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