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Carl Reiner
Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters, Catlin Adams, Mabel King, Richard Ward, Dick Anthony Williams, Bill Macy
Writing Credits:
Steve Martin, Carl Gottlieb, Michael Elias

A rags to riches to rags story.

Steve Martin stars in The Jerk, one of the funniest films of all time! The all-new "26th Anniversary Edition" features a completely restored widescreen picture and 5.1 surround sound for the first time ever. Enjoy the hilarious one-liners such as "I was born a poor black child" and "The ashtray, the paddle game and the remote control, and that's all I need", that make The Jerk one of the most memorable, quotable films ever made. It isi just as funny today as it was when Steve Martin wrote and starred in it 26 years ago.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$5.935 million on 525 screens.
Domestic Gross
$73.691 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Monaural
French Monaural

Runtime: 94 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 7/26/2005

• “The Lost Filmstrips of Father Carlos Las Vegas De Cordova”
• Learn to Play “Tonight You Belong to Me” on Ukulele
• Production Notes
• Trailer
• Previews


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Jerk: 26th Anniversary Edition (1979)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 1, 2005)

Funny how time can change perceptions. As I twelve-year-old who loved Steve Martin, I was really excited when The Jerk came out theatrically in 1979. I didn't see it then; although my Dad took me to "R"-rated films back then, he didn't want to see it, so that was that. I ended up not feeling too disappointed because the film received so many negative reviews. As I recall, most critics slammed it, and it didn't do very well at the box office.

Fast forward more than 25 years and it seems that the "common knowledge" of The Jerk states that it's a comedy classic that was a huge hit. Hmm ... maybe I lived in some sort of alternate universe 1979, but I don't remember that happening. Or maybe my 12-year-old self wasn’t in tune with how it fared in the rest of the world, but my perception that the film disappointed financially and critically remains.

Frequently when I expect to dislike a movie, I end up thinking it's at least okay. That happened with a decent movie in Prince of Tides and a shockingly terrific film in Good Will Hunting. Even oft-slammed clunkers like Sphere don't seem to live down to their overwhelmingly negative hype.

Years ago, I went into my first screening of The Jerk with low expectations, and it lived down to them. Over subsequent seasons, I’ve tried to give it additional chances; at this point, I’d guess I’ve seen it at least four or five times. I like many of the folks involved with the project and feel like I should enjoy the flick, so I persevere with new viewings every few years.

Despite all this, I have to say that I still find The Jerk to be a pretty lousy film. Maybe it's just me, but I simply didn't find much about it that actually qualified as either amusing or entertaining. It's just a big bore.

That's really the film's greatest fault: it's awfully boring. The movie only clocks in at 94 minutes but it feels much longer. There's very little plot involved and the vaguely connected series of gags just seems to drone on and on.

This wouldn't be so bad if the gags were better. After all, classics like Pee-Wee's Big Adventure and This Is Spinal Tap only offer merely the slightest of plots, but the situations involved are so funny that both movies work fantastically well. The Jerk, however, has little creativity or spark to it. I won't say that I didn't laugh, because occasionally something struck me as funny, but those peaks were few and far between. For the most part, I simply sat back and prayed for it to end.

Steve Martin's a tremendously talented actor and comic, but I think he simply tried too hard here. He clearly had a lot of pressure on him, and it's hard to live up to all the hype. He fulfilled all of his enormous promise in later endeavors, but The Jerk stands as a bomb.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus D

The Jerk appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. A definite improvement over the original 1998 DVD, this one presents the movie in its correct aspect ratio for the first time and also offers a consistently solid transfer.

Sharpness looked great. Only a minor sliver of softness interfered with a few wide shots. Otherwise the movie came across as distinctive and well-defined. I noticed no jagged edges, but a little shimmering appeared in some backgrounds, and a smidgen of edge enhancement popped up at times. Neither really interfered with things, though, and source flaws remained minor. The image got a bit grainy at times, and periodic examples of specks and grit also popped up on occasion. None of these created real distractions, as the movie stayed pretty clean, especially given its age.

Colors sparkled in this new transfer. The movie went with a natural but bright palette that truly glimmered. Hues looked dynamic and lively from start to finish and stood as a highlight. Blacks were also dense and deep. Some low-light shots were a little dark – primarily those with African-American actors – but the shadows usually came across as clear and easily viewable. The smattering of flaws almost caused me to knock my grade down to a “B”, but I thought The Jerk offered too many highlights to keep it from a “B+”.

Although I expected little from the new Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Jerk, the remix ultimately impressed me. It opened up the soundscape much better than I anticipated. Not that this meant much from the surrounds; they may have added general information, but they never went beyond that.

However, the forward channels seemed more engaging than one might predict. In that regard, music was something of a disappoint. Most of the score stayed in the range of broad mono; the music spread to the sides in the general way but didn’t offer concise stereo delineation.

Effects fared much better. They presented some good localization of minor elements and also meshed together smoothly. A few instances of panning worked out nicely, as the pieces moved cleanly across the channels. This wasn’t a spectacular soundfield, but it seemed believable and added some zing to the proceedings.

Audio quality also exceeded expectations. Movies from the late Seventies don’t normally offer stellar sound quality. While The Jerk didn’t excel in this category, it sounded better than I thought it would.

Speech usually worked well. A few lines came across as a bit reedy, but most of the dialogue was reasonably natural, and I encountered no issues with intelligibility or edginess. Music also seemed pretty robust. Though the score occasionally showed its age, the material mainly offered clear, lively tones. Effects were also strong. The smattering of loud scenes – like the towing of the church – added real dimensionality to the proceedings, as they kicked in with some solid bass. Not all the elements sounded that good, but they were consistently clean and distinctive. Overall, this was a surprisingly strong soundtrack.

How do the picture and audio of this DVD compare to those of the original? They blow away the old release. That one offered messy visuals and flat audio. Both areas presented very significant improvements for this re-release.

I suppose it’s smart that Universal didn’t tout this DVD as a “special edition”. They call it a “26th Anniversary Edition”, and that doesn’t hold as much of a promise of quality supplements. I guess that’s a good thing, for fans who anticipate some solid extras will leave this party with a serious case of disappointment.

The biggest attraction comes from The Lost Filmstrips of Father Carlos Las Vegas De Cordova. This looks like it’ll be deleted footage from the “cat juggling” sequence, but from what I can tell, it’s not. The clip shows four minutes and 21 seconds of additional pet-related mistreatment: fish teasing, plant abusing, and pet dressing.

I don’t know if this stuff was created specifically for the DVD, but it sure doesn’t appear to be related to the original production. The audience for the performance is totally different, and everyone – especially the sexy “card girl” – look a lot more 2005 than 1979. Whatever the case may be, it’s not funny at all. This is a very lame piece.

Next we find a thoroughly pointless extra: Learn to Play “Tonight You Belong to Me” on Ukulere. This goes through four steps: “Tune Uke”, “Play Lesson” (two minutes, 50 seconds), “Play Along with Ukulele Gal” (1:24), and “Play Along with The Jerk” (1:57). I don’t know about you, but even if I owned a ukulele, I wouldn’t waste my time learning to play this annoying song. Why bother with extras at all if they’ll be this dopey?

Text Production Notes offer a surprisingly good look at the film. We learn a little about its genesis and development as well as the shoot and its reception. The original DVD provided a shorter version of these notes, so it’s good to get the extended comments. Another repeat from the prior release comes from the film’s theatrical trailer. This is the same clip that appeared on the old disc. However, the new one mucks up the audio – at least it you watch it with your surround decoder engaged. When I did so, all of the sound came from my rear speakers! That’s a sloppy mistake that didn’t occur on the original package.

The DVD opens with some ads. We find previews for The Big Lebowski, The Wedding Date, Father of the Pride and Northern Exposure.

Despite repeated attempts to develop an appreciation for The Jerk, it just hasn’t happened – and probably never will. The movie has an occasional moment of mirth but usually seems slow, witless and boring. The DVD offers very good picture and sound, though its extras are mostly a waste of time.

Obviously I don’t like The Jerk enough to recommend it to someone who hasn’t seen it. For established fans, however, this is the DVD you should get – even if you already own the prior release. The supplements stink, but it provides radical improvements in picture and audio. Snag this sucker to enjoy the movie with a much stronger presentation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1428 Stars Number of Votes: 28
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