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The Jerk (1979)

Janelle is visiting from Australia, so I haven’t had much time to update this here blog, and this will have to be a quick post, because she’s making tacos and they’re almost done. (I still have a few more movie reviews to get to, too, which hopefully I can take care of over the weekend.)

I rented The Jerk because it plays a role in the brilliant Judd Apatow-crafted Freaks & Geeks, which I finally got around to watching on DVD. In one of the series’ many bitterly funny threads, likeable high-school geek Sam finally starts dating his cheerleader dream girl. Wanting to share with her one of the great joys of his life, she takes him to see The Jerk, only to be dismayed to find she’s annoyed by the clownish antics of Steven Martin, and just wants to make out with him in the movie theatre.

Watching this movie, then, lead to some soul-searching on my own part since my reaction to the film was kind of like the cheerleader’s, minus the making out with high-school-boys. Aside from a few clever bits, like the opening — “I was born a poor black child…” — Steve Martin here is a clown. He makes faces. He runs around excitedly. He talks dumb and misunderstands people. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in this life, it’s that clowns aren’t funny. Even when they’re Steve Martin. On the positive side, Steve Martin actually is pretty funny in this movie when he’s not yelling at the top of his lungs and falling down. So there’s that. Just not enough of it.