I honestly do not know how it is even possible that I have never seen The Jerk, but I haven't.
Those early years of Saturday Night Live were so important in shaping the way I saw comedy. Even moreso than Monty Python (which I didn't discover until 7th grade). That should give you some idea how young I was with SNL as my tutor.
But somehow, those lessons ended at the television set. The movies with Saturday Night alums just always seemed to get skirted around for something else.
To add horror to the blasphemy, it was somewhere in 93-94 before I saw The Blues Brothers for the first time. And I blush to even type it; the year 2000 before Animal House. I graduated from High School in 1991 to give you another yardstick to measure my age.
There is certainly no reason why I shouldn't have seen The Jerk by now. My parents were extremely liberal in what we watched as kids. I've been renting and going to the movies on my own for decades. I love Steve Martin and comedy in general. I even own the film on DVD! I got it as a Christmas gift about 5 years ago. And yet, here it sits next to me. Still sealed in it's factory plastic.
I have no excuse.
Please forgive me.
My thoughts on the film: The only thing I know about this movie is the bit where he sends a letter home to his mother, saying how he will be sending some money next time because he's going to be getting a "blow job."
Great bit. In fact, that should have been the trailer right there. It let's you know right up front what kind of craziness is in store for you. From finding out his mother is, somehow, a black woman to seeing how dense and naive he is about, not only sex but, life in general.
The other thing I know about this movie is Bernadette Peters. It always seemed to me that they were trying their damndest to groom her to be the next Madeline Kahn. Who, as far as I'm concerned, was the funniest woman to have ever lived. But as Kahn was getting older, I think they wanted someone to bring the funny and have that "sexy" side to her as well. Plus, maybe as a new face, she was cheaper to hire than the A-list talent. And it was never really fair to Peters to be stuck in those roles. She was a funny gal, just not anywhere near Madeline Kahn's level of funny. Putting her in those parts that should have been for Kahn really hurt her career. Mercifully, I think Heartbeeps, that God-awful Andy Kauffman movie, was the nail in the coffin for her career.
Which brings us to the star. Steve Martin. Or MR. Steve Martin as he likes to be called. The man IS funny. Like, the physical embodiment of funny. A lot of comedians have trouble or will complain about having to be "on" all the time, to the point sometimes where they will have a nervous breakdown from the pressure. I don't think Steve Martin has a problem with this, because it is just so much a part of his being. You could watch him just stand there and wait for a bus and would find yourself smiling.
I never really understood why it was titled "The Jerk." Just because someone is slow-witted and dumb I don't see why or how that makes them a jerk. Maybe in all the frustration he causes the people he encounters. And I know, even for the 70's, it would have been too politically incorrect to call it The Retard, seems like something like The Dunce would have been more apt.
But one of the cardinal rules of comedy is "K" sounds are always funny. So maybe that's why they went with it.
And for his first feature film, something he would have been building up and up in his mind all of his life before finally putting it to screen, I would imagine The Jerk is his masterpiece. Writing all my thoughts on him down like this I'm even more flabbergasted I haven't seen the movie yet.
Like I said, I own the movie. So I will, at some point, finally sit down and watch it. I'd like to have a few more reviews up here before I do, so that it's a nice little remembrance to this, my first blog.
For my review, based on this being Martin's first movie and my love for slapstick and dumb characters I am going to give this the highest rating possible: 5 arrowheads out of 5!