The Jerk

1979

The Jerk

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.

83%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 35

85%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 56,763
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The Jerk Photos

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 helmet and goggles) to start a new life in St. Louis. A filling station owner, Harry Hartounian (Jackie Mason), give Navin his first break, hiring him to pump gas. One day at the station, Navin has a brainstorm, concocting an invention called "The Opti-grab," a combination handle and nose-brace for eyeglasses. But Navin runs into trouble when a crazed killer (M. Emmet Walsh) picks out his name at random from the telephone book and tries to kill him. Navin escapes to a traveling carnival, where he wrangles a job as the "guess-your-weight" man. At the carnival, he discovers his sexual nature, thanks to stunt rider and S&M enthusiast Patty Bernstein (Catlin Adams). But Navin meets the beautiful Marie (Bernadette Peters) and he quickly falls in love. In the meantime, the "Opti-grab" has taken off and soon Navin is a millionaire. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

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Cast

Steve Martin
as Navin Johnson
Bernadette Peters
as Marie Kimball
Catlin Adams
as Patty Bernstein
Mabel King
as Mother
Bill Macy
as Stan Fox
Jackie Mason
as Harry Hartounian
Carl Reiner
as Himself
Ren Woods
as Elvira
Pepe Serna
as Punk No. 1
Sonny Terry
as Blues Singer
Brownie McGee
as Blues Singer
David Landsberg
as Bank Manager
Domingo Ambriz
as Father De Cordoba
Carl Gottlieb
as Iron Balls McGinty
Clete Roberts
as Announcer
Ken Magee
as Carnival Rube
Joe Lynn
as Voodoo Dancer
Maurice Marsac
as French Waiter
Fred Lerner
as Con Man
Kimberly Cameron
as Disco Party
Elizabeth Macey
as Disco Party
Frances Williams
as Grandma Johnson
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News & Interviews for The Jerk

Critic Reviews for The Jerk

All Critics (35) | Top Critics (7)

  • Within ts limitations, The Jerk is a capably produced entertainment, seasoned by deft bit performances from several actors...

    Apr 23, 2018 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Feb 2, 2009 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Feb 2, 2009 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

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

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top 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.

    Jul 5, 2005 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • The laughs aren't steady, but they're persistent, and the film moves fast enough to compensate for its unevenness.

    May 9, 2005

Audience Reviews for The Jerk

  • Jun 20, 2018
    The most irritating thing in this film (apart from the generally pedestrian sense of humor and lack of structure) is that it can't seem to decide if Steve Martin's character is supposed to be a naive idiot who doesn't know anything or a quick-witted smartass whenever required.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Aug 06, 2013
    The Jerk is certainly disappointing for me. As a man who loves almost anything Steve Martin is in, watching this acclaimed I was underwhelmed. I did have a few chuckles, the restaurant scene comes to mind "there are snails on her food!". And while the film didn't drag its feet, in fact it moved quickly, I could often predict what would happen next, including the next joke. I don't think it was a smart move to start from the end. I knew it was coming from the poster, so it wasn't vital to create this as some of story with no narrative. This might've inspired movies like The Waterboy, Forrest Gump, and The Terminal, but its not as good as any of those.
    Daniel D Super Reviewer
  • Jul 08, 2012
    The Jerk is often mentionned as one of the funniest movies of all-time. It is funny. But maybe I caught it too late, or it didn't age well enough, but this isn't that great. That being said, it's still not bad. My expectations might have just been too high. It's charming and cute. One thing needs to be said though, Steve Martin is terrific. This isn't just some actor trying to be funny, it's a real performance and a very good one with that. Must have been a big influence on Dumb and Dumber.
    Hugo S Super Reviewer
  • Apr 06, 2011
    An idiot sets out to find his place in the larger world, encountering colorful characters on his way. I saw an interview with Steve Martin, and he said, "I was watching comedians at that time [the early 70s], and everybody was just angry. And I thought to myself, 'There is no way this is going to last, so I'm just going to be silly.'" The problem I have with Martin's reasoning, and by extension, The Jerk is this: I like those "angry" comedians because what they said wasn't just free-flowing hostility. In many cases, like George Carlin and Lenny Bruce, they had complex and astute social criticisms. Their comedy challenged social conventions and exposed folly in ways that only the glass of satire and the barbs of a well-constructed joke can. So, when Martin's character runs awkwardly or covers his balls up with a live dog, I find very little to engage with. In the end, I simply find The Jerk unfunny. Now, I must admit a chuckle or two during Navin and Marie's first date, and his awkward request, "Next time you make love with your boyfriend, could you think of me?" actually produced a slight guffaw. But overall, I didn't find much to laugh about. And why does Marie leave him? Such an important plot point should be given some explanation. Overall, The Jerk is simply not my style.
    Jim H Super Reviewer

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