Top 100 Films #99 – The Jerk (1979)

 

image-w1280-1#99. The Jerk (1979)
Directed by: Carl Reiner
Written by: Steve Martin, Carl Gottlieb, Michael Elias
Starring: Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters, M. Emmet Walsh, Jackie Mason, Dick O’Neill, Mabel King

Carl Reiner’s famous Steve Martin vehicle The Jerk may just be one of the funniest movies ever made, owing almost entirely to its star’s completely dedicated performance, and a healthy dose of classic absurdism.  Martin stars as a dimwitted (but good-natured) and hapless young man named Navin.  After finding his “rhythm”, he becomes set on travelling to St. Louis in order to make something of himself.  Along the way he adopts a stray dog named Shithead, has a close-call with a maniacal sniper, joins the circus, gets married, and very suddenly becomes rich – all the while trying to find himself and carve out his own place in the world.  The script by Martin, Carl Gottlieb, and Michael Elias features a hilarious mixture of absurd and slapstick comedy, gross-out gags, and visual humor.  The Jerk is still funny nearly forty years after the fact, despite being outdated in a variety of ways.  It’s a true testament to the natural comedic talent of Steve Martin – who in his prime I would consider to be one of the all-time great screen comedians.  It’s impossible not to smile during The Jerk, and that’s what makes it such a treat.

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