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The Jerk

Friday, October 22 - Saturday, October 23, 2010

Chosen by Dylan P., projectionist

“A seedy character, a man, screeches into a service station in a hot rod, and hands the attendant a very stolen-looking credit card. ‘Fill ‘er up, uh . . . Mrs. Nussbaum?’ asks Steve Martin, thus demonstrating his suitability for the title role in THE JERK. But in the course of playing a happy idiot, Mr. Martin proves himself — often hilariously — to be nobody’s fool.

“THE JERK is by turns funny, vulgar and backhandedly clever, never more so than when it aspires to absolute stupidity. And Mr. Martin, who began his career with an arrow stuck through his head, has since developed a real genius for playing dumb. This time, he’s gone way beyond the silly tricks of those early days — notwithstanding the scene that shows him toddling despondently with his pants at his ankles, wearing a bathrobe and carrying a ping-pong paddle and a chair. This time, the emphasis is on comic sophistication, as when he sends back a vintage bottle in a fancy restaurant, crying to the waiter ‘Let’s splurge—bring us some fresh wine!’

“Mr. Martin [is] the abnormal son of a black sharecropping family — the only child, for instance, for whom tuna, Tab and Twinkies constitute a favorite meal. Finally, on his birthday — about his 35th, it appears — his parents inform him that he is not their natural child. Stunned by this news, he decides to hit the road.

“The funniest gags in THE JERK are the ones that capitalize on sentimental movie traditions, dopey to begin with and made even dopier here. Deciding to leave home, Mr. Martin stands outside his family’s shack for hours until a truck comes by. ‘How far you goin’?’ the driver shouts. ‘St. Louis — how far you goin” Mr. Martin inquires. ‘To the end of this fence!’ is the answer, and Mr. Martin hops in, with a merry cry of ‘O.K.!’ Several seconds later, the journey is over, and Mr. Martin is thanking the driver for his company. Mr. Martin plays this with a marvelously asinine optimism, and a ridiculous overabundance of good cheer.” – Janet Maslin, The New York Times

  • Country USA
  • Year 1979
  • Running Time 104 minutes
  • Director Carl Reiner