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The Jerk is an American comedy film from 1979. It was Steve Martin's first starring role in a feature film, and was directed by Carl Reiner.
The film follows Navin R. Johnson, a bum, who tells his life story. After finding out that he is not a natural born child of his black parents, Navin decides to leave home and make it for himself in the world. Despite the fact that he is woefully unprepared, Navin manages to land himself a job, escape a decidedly random psychopath, run away with a traveling carnival, find the woman of his dreams, and hit it rich, before finally losing everything and ending up a bum in the street.
Along the way, the film details Navin's interactions with the people and world around him, where his common misunderstandings of every-day situations often lead to hilarious results.
Tropes associated with this work:
- Balls of Steel: Steve Martin's character makes the mistake of kicking the crotch of "Iron Balls" McGinty.
- Berserk Button: Navin was raised by a black family and, for much of his life, thought he was black. He takes the N-word very personally.
- Black Comedy Rape: How Navin discovers his "special purpose".
- Chekhov's Gun: After Navin gets his first job, he promises to send some of everything he makes back to his family. Later, once he's homeless, it turns out that he continued sending his family checks after he got rich. They began investing the money and are fairly well off by the end of the movie.
- Comically Missing the Point: "He hates these cans!"
- Conspicuous Consumption: The first thing Navin does after finding out how much he really cashed his check for.
- Creator Cameo: Carl Reiner plays himself leading a class-action suit against Navin.
- Cucumber Facial
- Disproportionate Retribution: A throwaway gag has the butler's wife being executed by firing squad for taking too many cash advances on her credit card.
- Dissimile: In a letter to his parents, Navin describes his girlfriend as looking just like mom, "except she's thin and white".
- The Ditz: Navin to extreme levels.
Navin: You mean I'm gonna stay this color?
- Genius Ditz: Navin lacks common sense, but he knows enough about automobiles to make the Opti-Grab.
- Groin Attack: Unfortunately, the recipient is one "Iron Balls" McGinty.
- Hand or Object Underwear: Navin uses dogs.
- Heel Face Turn: Navin's would-be assassin decides to take up a less violent line of work.
- How We Got Here
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold
- Long List: And that's all Navin needs!
- Nice Hat: Complete with 3 foot long feather.
- Oblivious Adoption: Again, Navin was raised by an all black family. He only realizes this when his mother tells him.
- Overly Long Gag: "I know we've only known each other four weeks and three days, but to me it seems like nine weeks and five days." Navin then proceeds to list every single day he spent with her, explaining how long each of them felt and how they add up.
- Rags to Riches: And then back to rags.
- Road Trip Across the Street
- Shoo the Dog: Averted, as much as Shithead wanted it played straight.
- Talking Animal: Shithead. Except only Navin can understand him, and even then his translation isn't always accurate.
- The Cameo: The director appears as himself.
- Umbrella Drink: Navin is very partial to them.
- Unusual Euphemism: Navin's "special purpose".
- Visual Pun: Navin's family had to tear down their old house, but they built a bigger house in it's place. If you look closely, you'll notice that it's the exact same hovel as before, only scaled up about 40%. Hey, he said "bigger," not necessarily "nicer."
- What Do You Mean It's Not Heinous?: CAT-JUGGLING!!