Box art for The Jerk

The Jerk

comedy


Steve Martin portrays Navin Johnson, adopted son of a poor black sharecropper family, whose crazy inventions lead him from rags to riches and right back to rags.

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

  • Critic Score
    84%
  • Audience Score
    85%

common sense

PAUSE for kids age 15
Consumerism
0 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
3 out of 5
Language
3 out of 5
Positive messages
3 out of 5
Sex
3 out of 5
Violence
3 out of 5
Positive role models
0 out of 5

Classic Steve Martin comedy with frequent profanity.

what parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Jerk is a 1979 Steve Martin comedy that is -- while certainly one of Martin's best and best-loved movies -- filled with frequent profanity as well as the use of racial slurs. Although the use of racial slurs is used to heighten a scene in which mob goons are trying to keep minorities out of real estate in more upscale neighborhoods, the nuance of the scene might be lost on younger viewers. In an extended scene, a young boy is shown wearing a T-shirt that reads "Bull S--t." There is some sexual innuendo: Navin's adopted mother had referred to his penis as having a "special purpose," and he finds out just what that means when he loses his virginity to a tough-acting, foul-mouthed motorcycle stuntwoman. The stuntwoman's trailer is shown from the outside rocking up and down. A crazed gunman is shown pursuing Navin with a rifle and scope, trying to kill him from a distance. Characters are shown drinking, smoking cigarettes, and, in one scene, smoking a joint. Although The Jerk is one of the all-time great comedies, the content and raw material for the comedy make this best for mature teens and older.

what families can talk about

  • Families can talk about how race is depicted in the movie. How is racial stereotyping explored in serious and not-so-serious ways?
  • How is Navin's naivet revealed in the film, and how is this used as the primary source of the comedy?
  • What are some aspects of the movie that place it firmly in the late 1970s? If this movie were to be remade today, what do you think would be different about it?

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

  • Tomatometer®

    84%
    reviews counted: 5
    see all The Jerk reviews
  • Audience

    85%

Top Critic Reviews

Fresh: The comedy runs out of steam when the jerk makes good, but laugh for laugh it's probably a better investment than 10.

- Geoff Andrew, Time Out, Saturday, June 24, 2006

Fresh: The laughs aren't steady, but they're persistent, and the film moves fast enough to compensate for its unevenness.

- Janet Maslin, New York Times, Monday, May 9, 2005

Rotten: Its humor is successful and unsuccessful by turns, and although Comedian Carl Reiner is the director, the instinct here is to give most of both credit and blame to Martin.

- John Skow, TIME Magazine, Monday, February 2, 2009

Audience Reviews

4 stars

I don't understand how Steve Martin could do something this amazing and hilarious and never come even remotely close ever again. His timing was perfect and I can't get enough of this movie. Bernadette Peters was an absolute doll and any scene with M. Emmet Walsh was absolute gold.

- mjgildea, Wednesday, October 27, 2010

3 stars

I've only just got round to seeing this one and I can see why it is much loved. Steve Martin used to be funny, it's such a shame he isn't anymore. I think if I'd seen it as a youngster I would probably be quite found of it but viewing it as an adult 31 years after it was made I just found it to be quite good.

- SirPant, Monday, September 27, 2010

5 stars

This has to be 1 of the greatest comedies of all time

- dukeakasmudge, Thursday, October 29, 2009