Rife Sillyness

Steve Martin is a smart guy. He's also a very cultured guy, and I've been fortunate enough to have seen part of his formidable modern art collection (on display with witty taped commentary spoken by the man himself). So, it's very interesting that his comedy roots are steeped in base and uncultured humor. Documentaries on Martin's life tend to pin his success on being smart enough to know what the audience wanted, and changing up the material to keep one step ahead of them.

The Jerk is considered, well, something of a classic. There are some audacious choices in the script which were well tuned for the times ("I was born a poor black child.") - the commentary underneath it all is pretty interesting, but the problem is the lack of much going on in the film beyond the current moment. You can walk in and out, or watch the scenes in a mixed up order, and not really miss much. The movie is successful just as Martin's career was at the time, by aiming low and hitting that mark. We know he can do much better, but these early successes are what made the later work possible. Standing on its own, though, it would be nice to see something more here.

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