Directed by Carl Reiner and starring Steve Martin, The Jerk is marking the film’s 40th anniversary in 2019 with a new Blu-ray release this year.
The Jerk is known for being one of the funniest movies of all time. When the American Film Institute honored comedy movies with their 100 Years, 100 Laughs selections in 2000, The Jerk came in at #89. This is the only film directed by Reiner to make the list. As far as I can tell, it’s the only film from Martin’s filmography to make the list, too. One of the things I learned in watching the bonus features is that the films original title was Easy Money. During the conversation between Martin and Reiner, we learn that the title was changed shortly after Reiner signed on to direct the film.
There are certainly some phrases that wouldn’t be allowed in this film today. I won’t repeat the word today since it’s a derogatory slur. It’s great that Navin Johnson speaks up for his adopted family. On the other hand, Johnson repeats language that would not be allowed by today’s standards. I would argue that such language certainly would not make it past the first draft. Not without a lot of notes for what it’s worth. This does speak to the lens that we view the film. Do we view it through that of the 21st century or a 1979 lens? I guess this is for you to decide.
The two conversations that are new for the 40th anniversary make the edition worth it. Both conversations run over 20 minutes in length while offering fascinating insight. The Jerk also proved to be a big turning point in Steve Martin’s career as he was making the transition to acting. Following this film, Martin would star in a number of films during the 1980s including the Thanksgiving classic, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.
Hailed as one of the funniest movies of all time, Steve Martin stars as Navin Johnson, the adopted son of a poor black sharecropping family in Mississippi. When he learns that the world is a much bigger place than he’d ever imagined, Navin sets out on a quest to find his “special purpose.” His adventures lead him to encounter a would-be assassin, jobs in carnivals and gas stations, a life-saving dog, romance with the girl of his dreams and more money than he could ever spend. But his life in the clouds may come crashing down when the source of his new fame and fortune creates disastrous side effects.
DIRECTOR: Carl Reiner
SCREENWRITERS: Steve Martin & Carl Gottlieb & Michael Elias
CAST: Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters, Catlin Adams, Mabel King, and Jackie Mason