Jerk, The

Reviewed By Thom
Posted 12/11/99 06:57:48

"When Martin Was King"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Okay, talented and industry veteran Martin is still on top of his game but he's mellowed out quite a bit since his frenetic days as an SNL regular catering to the pot-smoking sexual revolutionaries need for puerile entertainment. The Jerk was the comedy movie of the decade and fathered a whole school of dim-witted genius.

The movie, and the era, began with the line "I was born a poor black child". The irony being that Navin, played by Martin, is as white as you can get in the heart of the soulful and poor black south.

His early childhood conflicts were finding rhythm and having to deal with the not obvious to him fact that he was adopted.

When Navin realizes that he is not who he thought he was, he goes out into the world to find himself and along the way finds his fortune.

The formula of the naif lost in the wicked world is given full comedic play in The Jerk. Martin is joined by an extra talented cast, including Bernadette Peters in this landmark film.

The modern comic actors owe a great debt to stylistic pioneers like Martin who set the tone for the limits of what an audience would want. Jim Carrey pushed the envelope that Martin sealed even further and the innuendo laden physical humor and sagacity posing as idiocy is bringing 'em home still.

The Jerk is a surprisingly sophisticated movie with an intelligent sensibility underneath the foppery. The Jerk is the classic Shakespearean fool. Wise in his innocence, outside the boundaries of society, able to break the rules to teach without consequence. The voice that dare not speak is given free rein in the mouth of the village idiot.

The Jerk is a milestone in movie and social history and is still relevant today. Martin uses Navin to illustrate innocence and sexuality, ignorance and experience in a way that seems prurient but at its heart is touching and instructive.

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