The Jerk (VHS, 1997) Reviews
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The Jerk (VHS, 1997)

18 ratings (18 Epinions reviews)
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I was born a poor black child...

May 28, 2008
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:HAS IT ALL COMEDY, ROMANCE, ACTION, FIGHT SCENES, SOCIAL-POLITICAL COMMENTARY!

Cons:Steve Martin's annoying drunk voice sucks - that's the only bad thing!

The Bottom Line: This is just a great, funny film. Definitely worth watching - very stupid and amusing.


I love this movie - my Dad and I watched it a million times when I was a kid. I bought the 26th anniversary DVD as soon as I realized it existed.

The opening scene shows us Steve Martin as a dirty, haggard bum. He tells us “I am not a bum – I’m a jerk. I once had wealth…power, and the love of a beautiful woman. Now I only have two things. My friends and my thermos.” And as the camera zooms in on him, he starts telling us his story. Now I love Steve Martin, I do…but his “drunkard” voice is awful – he just sounds like he has a cold or something. Anyway…

“It was never easy for me. I was born a poor black child.” We flashback to Steve, or “Navin” white as the driven snow, living in a shanty with his many black brothers and sisters. It’s his birthday and as his loving family gives him gifts, he is overcome with “feeling different.” Since it’s his birthday, his Mom decides it’s time he knew that he wasn’t her natural-born child. She assures him that he is loved, and he sadly asks, “You mean I’m gonna stay this color?” Poor Navin...His family begins singing the blues and he declines the offer to join them because those songs depress him..also, he just can’t find the rhythm. Later in bed, he is touched by the jazz music on the radio – he can FEEL it’s rhythm – he MUST go see what else there is in the world to see!

Before he leaves, his father makes sure that he knows the difference between (what i must refer to for censorship reasons as) skit and shinola. No father should ever let his son leave home without that knowledge. His mother gives him the advice “Lord loves a working man,” and his father tells him “Don’t trust Whitey.” Armed with that knowledge, he stands at his gate with his thumb out waiting for someone to pick him up. He gets a ride to the end of the fence from someone, and another car takes him even farther and soon, Navin is at a hotel, asleep.

This is when another main character of the movie comes into play – Skithead. There is a dog barking at Navin’s door, he wakes up and tries to understand what it is that the dog is telling him and realizes that he is telling him that the hotel is on fire. Navin and Skithead warn everyone and the fire trucks come – and they find out that there is no fire - it is a false alarm...another patron of the hotel then dubs this new character, Skithead.

On Navin goes to St. Louis…he gets a job! At the gas station! He sends his parents money whenever he can, and gets a new place to live that’s behind the gas station bathroom! Then he gets left alone on a Sunday – and his first customer is a car full of Mexican thieves who are smoking illegal drugs and have a stolen credit card…OH, NO! As he tries to keep the police on the line AND convince the Mexicans that he is at their service, shenanigans occur! He gives them all of his cash, offers them an oven mitt and ties their car to a pipe coming out of a building and they wind up pulling the WHOLE CHURCH with them down the road as they leave before the cops arrive. But WAIT! The new phone books have arrived! Navin rushes to get one and yells “I’m in print! Things are going to start happening now.” Little does he know, there is a random assassin out there who picks his random victims randomly from the phone book. So as the assassin stalks him and has him in his rifle sight, Navin helps a customer who has problems with his glasses. He can’t STAND the way they slide down his nose and off his face. “Damn these glasses!” “Yes sir, I damn thee!” Then Navin says, “I can fix those glasses,” and the guy says “Well, here, fix those suckers!” and he does! He figures that because people take off their glasses by pulling from one side, that it stretches the glasses out, so people should take them off from the front – so he creates a glasses-handle that can be grabbed to take off glasses and puts rubber pieces on it to keep them from slipping down. The man is ecstatic and promises that if he can make money off of it, he will find Navin and give him half. He leaves and the assassin starts shooting! He shoots the oil cans that stand near Navin! Navin mistakes these shots for problematic cans! “These cans are defective! They're springing leaks!” His boss yells that they aren’t springing leaks, someone is shooting them, Navin yells, “He hates these cans!” Finally he understands that he is the object of the assassin’s rage and jumps into the car his boss is currently working on.

He drives this broken car on four rims to a fenced-in lot that admits “Carnival Personnel Only.” He runs in but the assassin is stopped at the gates because he is not carnival personnel. Thus Navin begins life as a Carnival worker – he guesses weights. “Take a chance and win some crap”

He catches the eye of a carnival worker – the motorbike rider who drives her bike through a wall of burning cardboard and falls off. She wants a bite of his corn-dog – germs or not...When she tries to guess his weight something happens to his special purpose, and he writes a letter to his family describing it and telling them that he may have extra money next week because Patty has promised him a *glow job.

Then Navin meets the love of his life - Marie. She gives him a kiss after he saves her babysitting charge and he is smitten. She totally gets him. But his biker “wife” is unhappy about this situation...As Navin and Marie enjoy Cup O’ Pizza (sounds so good, right?) and get to know each other, she drives up and begins a violent attack that is ended by Marie smacking her in the jaw…which proves to Navin that she likes him because she protected him…so they go to the beach and play a ukulele.

Alas, Marie can only marry someone with a special purpose and money. Navin has the special purpose, but no money...Marie's mother has given up everything for her to go to cosmetology school and she can only marry someone who is special. After a few days of bliss and trumpet playing, and a loving song written for Marie about a thermos, she leaves Navin a letter that Skithead gets wet and Navin can’t read and she disappears from his life. A naked Steve Martin runs around using dogs as fig leaves yelling for Marie to no avail. Then he tries to release Skithead to the wild. Skithead gladly goes, and Navin chases him down, leashes him, and drags him behind him all the way to Los Angeles.

Navin is in a new home, broke and lonely. He sends his parents only 49 cents and looks out of his window to see someone watching him through binoculars – THE ASSASSIN! He tells Skithead to attack – and Skithead attacks Navin! Navin runs with his bowl of chips until he can run no more and finally the assassin hands him a certified letter. He is now a private detective. Navin is to call on Stan Fox at a hotel suite. He does so and finds out that his old gas-station customer marketed his “Glasses-handle” into an Opti-Grab and he gets a check for $250,000! “I can use money!”

Navin and Skithead are now decked in the finest clothing available and driving a sweet sportscar and buying random works of art. Then Marie’s mom calls and tells Navin where Marie is working for $75. He goes there and watches as Marie demonstrates what makeup would benefit a Mr. Irving. He switches places with Irving when no one is looking and when Marie peels off the mask, she is astonished to find her “sweetheart” and they kiss as Irving’s wife beats them with a purse, thinking her Irving has been transformed. WACKY!

Now Navin has Skithead, Marie, a huge house, servants, an all-red billiard room with a giant stuffed camel...he is learning how to manage his money and swimming in jewels. He writes home that he is very happy and sends his love (and some money). But he’s bored and doesn’t know what to do with himself. Charitable organizations come to him asking for help in preventing cat juggling. He and Marie are taking unnecessary lessons (knife-throwing) and trying to adapt to all this new money.

There is trouble when some of his investors are trying to tell him of a new building they will be renting out. They try to say, in various ways, that they will not be letting any “blacks” live in their building. When one of them says they’ll be keeping out the miggers, he responds, “Sir, you are talking to a migger!” and proceeds to kung-foo them all to the ground. Why is this scene necessary? Because it just wouldn't have been complete without Navin defending his roots with Kung-Foo moves - that's why.

But all good things must come to an end, and as Navin and his wife and houseguests disco the day away, a television interview comes on with the news that there will be a ten million dollar class action lawsuit filed against Navin for producing a product that he didn’t even test on prisoners. The Opti-Grab attracts the eye to the center of the nose and has rendered millions of Americans CROSS-EYED!

They go to trial, judge and jury area all cross-eyed, and Navin is forced to send everyone involved a check for $1.09. As Navin drunkenly writes checks, Marie sobs that she misses the way they were. They argue and Navin decides that he’s going to leave. He doesn’t need anything. Not anything. Just the ashtray, this paddle game, and the remote control, the lamp and these matches and this chair for sure. “I don’t need anything else. What are you looking at? What do you think I am some kind of a jerk or something?” He walks pitifully down the street with his pants around his ankles. Skithead growls at him, he catches a bus and goes downtown. He trades all of his stuff for a thermos. And then we come back to the beginning shot – Navin as a bum - a jerk.

All of a sudden a station wagon pulls up! It’s his black family. His dad invested all of the money Navin sent home and they are very well-off. Marie is with them. He gives her the thermos. He rides in the back with Skithead because of the stench, and off they go – home. They build a shanty that is a bit larger than the old one, but it was still home. The ending credits have the whole family singing “Whoa, Lordy, pick a bale of cotton, whoa lordy, pick a bale of hay...”

This DVD also had lots of bonus features...

Lost film strips of charity guy - this was a bunch of clips involving other odd things people could do to animals instead of cat-juggling. These look like they were filmed recently and aren't as funny or shocking as cat juggling, so I'm not quite sure why it's there...

Fish teasing - Not funny - guy eats sushi, teases fish with food, taps bowl

Plant abusing - not funny - Yelling at a plant

Pet dressing – pug in hats and cowboy costume – funny
Clown – not so much – dog reaction was great

Then there was the very in-depth "Learn to play the ukulele" feature
The Ukulele gal reads a letter from Navin asking how to play "Now You Belong To Me" - she teaches you from the tv, there are only 7 chords and she goes through the whole song with you. Nifty. You can watch her sing it twice – on a rock and in a bubble doing both voices and playing ukulele

Or play along with Navin and Marie, it gives you the option to play that scene while you play the song.

There's also the original Theatrical trailer for the movie - it's funny/serious – many shots of his early, poor black childhood

The Production notes summarize the movie – pretty pointless and lame - why is this there?

You can also watch this movie in Spanish, French or English . I watched a few minutes in French – nothing funnier than “De la merde. De la qualite’” (Skit or shinola)


Recommend this product? Yes

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