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The Jerk
Universal/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 90 mins . M15+ . PAL


The Jerk was the first of Steve Martin's many starring film roles, enlarging the following he had gained as a television and club-circuit comic. Martin is Navin R Johnson (Martin) a naive young man who had it all - wealth, power and a loving wife, all of it earned by himself. Then he lost it all, again all by himself.

Navin had a hard life, growing up the only white member of an all black family, not quite fitting in, no matter how hard he tried. It wasn't until he was fully grown that his adopted parents told him how they had found him on their doorstep, only a baby, and decided to raise him as one of their own.

Wanting to discover his place in the world Navin leaves home to make something of himself, travelling from city to city, job to job. Along the way many an unsavory character takes advantage of his naievity, until one kind hearted businessman fulfills a promise and Navin's fortunes are turned around. Unfortunately, fortune is a fickle beast, and after a short period of extravagance and opulence, Nivan ends up back where he began.


Some people may say that this film is only a comedy, that it doesn't matter that the DVD's in pan & scan, and not its original ratio. Well, if that's the case, then why wasn't it filmed in 1.33:1 to begin with? Aspect ratio aside, we've actually got a pretty nice transfer here, especially considering that this film is now over 20 years old - I challenge you to find a VHS copy that looks this good.

Sure, there's some minor dirt spots on the film, but that can be forgiven a little due to age. What is impressive is the clarity of picture despite a fairly modest bit-rate. Colours are strong, while still maintaining deep blacks, and edges are sharp without looking like a scalpel has been applied. The only time you're likely to notice any picture problems, is a night time walk along the beach - the low light conditions and bit-rate had combined to make the scene look very grainy as the colours bleed together in compression artifacts.

Audio is mono only, and a nice clean track - no audible hissing, and dialogue is clear throughout the film. Especially nice is the performance of You Belong To Me by Martin and Peters as they walk along the beach - you'll tend to forget that what you're hearing is only mono, being swept along with the melody created by their voices and Martin's ukulele.

The disc is rounded out with a couple of standard extras - a few screens of Production Notes, with comments from Martin and Reiner, the original Theatrical Trailer which looks as though it's seen better days, and Talent Profiles of the principle cast and director.

Steve Martin's films can be a little hit-or-miss, but The Jerk still stands up today, and makes for a wonderful comparison - of humour and character - with his more recent Bowfinger. It's good to see the classic comedy hitting the shelves again, yet still look as fresh as the new laughs on the block.

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  •   And I quote...
    "This film is over twenty years old? Are you sure? It sure don't look it."
    - Andrew MacLennan
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