Time: 94 mins.
SYNOPSIS: A complete imbecile struggles to make it through life on his own, until a strange invention makes him unbelievably wealthy, ruining his life.
BOTTOM LINE: As Martin's second film, THE JERK was made in his "wild and crazy guy" phase, long before he became a mainstream movie star. Showcasing the idiot side of his nature, Martin plays Navin R. Johnson, a somewhat dim young man trying to find his place in life once he discovers he was adopted by his black parents. On his journey to uncover his true calling, he discovers sex, becomes excessively rich and finds true love, only to wind up right back where he started a poor, but happy child with black parents.
The story enables Martin to explore all avenues of his comedy talent from slapstick physical humor to clever one-liners. On the surface, THE JERK could be dismissed as just another silly comedy, but Martin makes it more than just a one joke movie. The film has some truly endearing moments and a depth that is unexpected. It's not Hamlet, but by creating such an interesting character this film is better than it should be. Peters and Reiner are great foils, keeping up with Martin's mania admirably.
The great thing about Steve Martin is he's unafraid to look as ridiculous as necessary to make a scene work. His recent movies, like THE OUT-OF TOWNERS and BOWFINGER, lack the spontaneity and outrageous sense of fun that makes his older movies, like this one, so enjoyable. His performance makes THE JERK a real comic delight and a movie that should not be missed. It's not clever, but it sure is funny.