Steve Martin's debut movie "The Jerk" as the lead went on to become the third biggest hit of 1979 in the US. This box office approval was not reflected in the largely venomous reviews of the time. Viewed today, it's a film that resembles a mix between "Airplane"-style gags and an early watered down version of the crude comedy the Farrelly Brothers would later take to new extremes.
Living out in the sticks in a ramshackle house, Martin is a pretty simple fellow to put it politely. He's the only white member of a huge black family and his shock at discovering that he's not a natural child comes as a major blow. These opening scenes contain some of the better jokes, and Martin's inability to keep to the rhythm of the family sing-songs is amusing.
Realising that he doesn't know anything about his real background, Martin decides to head for the big city. There he gets a job as a gas station attendant that curiously results in a part of a church getting demolished. This type of visual humour is an example of what works best in an otherwise patchy and dated film.
More opportunities for slapstick keep things moving along, including Martin becoming an amusement park train driver, falling in love with a female motorcycle racer, and outwitting a deranged killer. The undoubted highlight of the movie though is the cat-juggling scene.
Unfortunately after that, things start to get a little strained and the movie struggles once Martin's character encounters financial fortune. This translated into real life to, with the box office success of the film prompting Martin to produce an unsuccessful TV feature remake that formed the pilot for a series that never got made.