Steve Martin parlayed his successful stand-up act into movie stardom with this hit comedy. He stars as Navin Johnson, a clueless dolt who leaves his family of black sharecroppers to see the world. He gets a job pumping gas where he is hunted down by a crazy dude (M. Emmett Walsh) so he flees to join the carnival as a weight guesser. There he becomes the property of a tattooed daredevil/sex maniac (Caitlin Adams) but ends up falling in love with Bernadette Peters instead. When he invents a handle for eyeglasses, he becomes a millionaire overnight but loses it all due to a lawsuit. Homeless and penniless, he finally returns home to his family who await him with open arms.
The Jerk isn’t a classic but it is filled with enough hilarious moments to make it required viewing. My favorite scenes include Martin discovering “his special purpose”, the Thermos song and the scene where he tells Peters how long it really feels like they’ve been together. Not all the gags work though and I sincerely think that the flick could’ve stood some tighter editing. My biggest problem with the film is actually the title. Martin’s character isn’t really a jerk; just an idiot. I guess if they called the film “The Idiot”, people would’ve thought it was a Dostoevsky adaptation. Nevertheless, Martin is really funny in this and that’s all that really matters anyway.
Director Carl Reiner went on to direct three more Martin vehicles: Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, The Man with Two Brains and All of Me. Followed by a Martin-less Made-for-TV sequel.