Adopting behaviour patterns reminiscent of Jerry Lewis in his heyday, comedian Steve Martin bulldozed his way through The Jerk, an uneven comedy whose hit-and-miss approach to the material nonetheless yielded more laughs than groans.
Martin played Navin Johnson, the adopted son of black parents (Mabel King and Richard Ward) who, upon finally learning of his true parental situation (“You mean, I’m gonna stay this colour?!”), leaves home with the family dog.
He becomes a gas station attendant for Harry Hartounian (Jackie Mason) and the driver of an amusement park train. It is the saga of how Navin copes with the outside world that forms the bulk of the screenplay (which Martin collaborated on with Carl Gottlieb and Martin Elias).
The women in his life were played by Bernadette Peters and Caitlin Adams, but they took third place to the sight gags and off-the-cuff non-sequiturs which abound – and overall enjoyment of this film depends largely on whether or not you like the star to begin with.
Navin Johnson/Cat Juggler
Dick Anthony Williams
M. Emmet Walsh
Father De Cordoba