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.