Michael Scott

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The Jerk: 40th Anniversary Edition


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Movie: :4stars:
Video: :3.5stars:
Audio: :3.5stars:
Extras: :3stars:
Final Score: :3.5stars:



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Movie


Steve Martin’s The Jerk is his most controversial film out of his entire career, and one that literally kick started said career at the same time. The film is decidedly “Un PC”, playing fast and loose with the idea of the stupid among us in society, as well as garners a lot of heated debated among film fans. Some fans rave that it is the best work that he’s ever done, while others consider it stupidity personified, and not worthy of Martin’s comedic talents, with much better films in his library of works. Me personally, I’m leaning towards “better film that’s made” even though I don’t consider it his BEST films (especially since Father of the Bride is my favorite movie of his). Before The Jerk , Martin was usually relegated to playing small bit parts in movies (including a tiny part in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the single worst musical of all times), but this was the first time he was given a starring role. A role shot him into the limelight as a true comedic actor and one that he still credits for giving him the opportunity to make as many movies as he has.

The Jerk is inane and stupid, I will give it that, but it is also hilariously biting at the same time. Martin is Navin R. Johnson, a young boy who was raised by poor black parents down in the south. Wanting to go out into the world, Navin grabs his nap sack and heads off to make (and lose) his fortune. Like all people starting at the bottom, Navin has to rely on the kindness of strangers at first, but soon after is stumbling into one string of luck after another. He moves from being wanderer and nomad to being an assistant at a gas station, and here is where we get the infamous “the phonebooks are here!” sequence that the film is so known for. While the assistant at this gas station, new phone books come in and it looks like Navin actually IS someone finally, as his name is in the book. His glee is soon turned to fear when a sniper randomly pulls his name out of a phone book and starts to hunt Navin down for his PTSD riddled problems.

Getting out of Dodge, Navin drifts to his next job, which is working at a carnival where he gets taught the birds and the bees by a biker chick. However, while there, Navin runs into the love of his life named Marie (Bernadette Peters). While the two fall in love, Marie isn’t so sure that Navin can provide for a family. Well, dumb luck is going to take care of that as the gas station owner that hired Navin originally had filed for a patent in Navin’s name for an invention that Navin came up with to help eye glasses stay on people’s noses. Suddenly Navin’s a millionaire, and he CAN take care of Marie. Now he’s back in the limelight with more money than he could ever fathom, but fate has other plans in store for him as Navin’s invention has a few unknown side effects.
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The Jerk is structurally a flashback film, with sequences out of order and told in reverse time. We see him at the lowest part of his life at the beginning, and the story uses sets of flashbacks to tell the story of how he got to be where he is today (and of course book ending with the film’s closing sequence of him getting his life back on track once more). The film is part cautionary tale, and part commentary, and part inane stupidity. Which, in my opinion, is what gives the film it’s charm. Steve Martin is at his most rubber faced at this point of his career, and the slapstick comedy works so amazingly well. You have to revel in pure stupidity to enjoy the flick, but for off the wall comedies it’s one of his best to date.

I chuckle even more at the film when I look back considering how Un PC it is (especially for the times). Like Blazing Saddles, it’s a movie that would not get made today as they step on more toes than a high schooler at the prom, and slather on some thick social commentary that would get nipped in the bud in today’s PC laden society. However, these are usually the funniest bits of the movie and one of the reason’s why I adore the film as much as I do, with Martin mixing in sweet naivety with harsh “oh my goodness!” political savagery, making it a unique and quotable film even to this day.




Rating:

Rated R by the MPAA




Video: :3.5stars:
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For those of you who have the Universal Blu-ray, you are well aware that the transfer was an abomination. It was DNR’s to death, and covered in speckles and a waxy appearance that actually made Face/Off look good. The average rating for that transfer was a 1.5/5 and literally looked worse than the DVD (those types of transfers are few and far between, as USUALLY even the worst Blu-ray transfers look mildly better than the DVD). Shout Factory has lauded the fact that they have gone back and given the film a 2K remaster and the results are night and day difference. The film is still a bit wonky with detail levels, and the murky looking blacks is still a hurdle to overcome, but the DNR, the edge enhancement and the overall grey look of the old Blu-ray is completely gone. Fine details are moderately better, but there’s no huge leaps and bounds, but that color grading and the digital artifacting was some of the worst I had seen on the Blu-ray format, so that being gone is a HUGE deal. There’s some mild speckling and a few spots on the film print, but the grain field is very organic looking, and combined with the colors make this a whole new experience to watch. It may not be crème de la crème of Blu-ray remasters (I did notice that they mention no restoration techniques, so I’m assuming it’s just a new master from the same source materials), but it is a rather large jump from the abysmal Universal disc that I literally threw in the trash the minute I did the comparison.





Audio: :3.5stars:
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Like usual, the 5.1 mix that Shout Factory has put on the disc sounds identical to the Universal 5.1 mix, meaning it’s more than capable, but it’s not going to be a wildly immersive track. Just a simple comedy track with a dialog heavy front end (that sounds more than clear and clean), and a minimally used rear sound stage. Those expecting a wild and boisterous modern track will be a bit disappointed, but for a 1979 comedy this is exactly what one would expect of the genre in the time period. The 2.0 DTS-HD MA stereo accompaniment is just as good as the 5.1 mix, although I gathered a bit more LFE and surround activity with the 5.1 (naturally).







Extras: :3stars:
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• BRAND NEW 2K REMASTER OF THE FILM
• NEW A Conversation with Steve Martin and Carl Reiner
• NEW A Conversation with Writers Michael Elias and Carl Gottlieb
• Learn How to Play "Tonight You Belong To Me"
• The Lost Film Strips of Father Carols Las Vegas De Cordova
• Trailers & Radio Spots






Final Score: :3.5stars:


The Jerk is one of the sillier films in Steve Martin’s career, but also one of my favorite. I’ve quoted this film about a gazillion times over the years, and even after 40 years that opening scene of “being raised a poor black child” is one of the funniest lines in my over used film quote repertoire. The new release by Shout Factory is a healthy jump in visual quality over the horrific Universal disc, and the new extras are quite nice. There is a 26 minute interview with Steve Martin and Carl Reiner that is the highlight of the entire package ,and is well worth checking out as it is one of the best interviews I’ve heard on a disc for quite some time. The disc has a few flaws, but overall this is a very nice anniversary edition for the Shout Select lineup.



Technical Specifications:

Starring: Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters, Catlin Adams, Mabel King, Richard Ward, Bill Macy, Dick Anthony Williams, M. Emmet Walsh
Directed by: Carl Reiner
Written by: Steve Martin, Michael Elias, Carl Gottlieb
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH
Studio: Shout Factory
Rated: R
Runtime: 94 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: December 18th, 2018







Recommendation: Recommended

 
Last edited:

Asere

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Looks funny. I have never seen it even though its been on tv many times before. I will have to watch it soon I hope.
Thanks for the review.
 

Matthew J Poes

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I loved this movie as a kid. Steve Martin at his best. It has some of the greatest one-liners. I especially liked his reaction to Escargot!
 

tripplej

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Thanks for the review. I greatly enjoyed this movie long time ago and will have to revisit it. :)
 

Todd Anderson

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Great flick... the gas station scene is priceless. Is this its first run on BD?
 

Michael Scott

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no, as I mentioned in my review it was released by Universal 5 years ago, but the video transfer was an abomination. Like one of the worst the Blu-ray format has had level. This one is a big improvement in both that and special featuers
 
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