'The Jerk' pales in comparison with the three-disc featured-loaded 'Bill & amp; Ted.'
By JEN CHANEY
As the Kennedy Center prepares to honor Steve Martin this October with its annual Mark Twain Award -- recognition for a lifetime of comedic achievement -- Universal Home Video has chosen the perfect time to release a new DVD of "The Jerk," the 1979 movie that transformed Martin from wild and crazy guy to leading man.
Cheekily billed as the "26th Anniversary Edition" of the rags-to-riches-to-rags-again romp, the film still manages to earn its share of guffaws, thanks largely to Martin's loose and loony portrayal of the moronic Navin Johnson. But fans of the movie may be more enraged than amused when they realize how limited this DVD's extras are.
After the studio released a very basic version of "The Jerk" in 2002, one would naturally expect a more robust product the second time around. But for some reason (perhaps the DVD producers are as bubbleheaded as Navin Johnson?), they completely dropped the home-entertainment ball.
All we get are two completely pointless featurettes: "The Lost Filmstrips of Carlos Las Vegas de Cardova," which attempts to come off as a deleted scene but was clearly created strictly for the DVD, and a ukulele lesson that teaches viewers how to play "Tonight You Belong to Me," a song Martin and Bernadette Peters sing in the movie. And that's it. There's no commentary track, no making-of documentary, no interviews with Martin, Peters or director Carl Reiner, no deleted scenes. In fact, apart from the movie itself, there's really nothing here worth watching at all.
The makers of "The Jerk" DVD could learn a few things from "Bill & amp; Ted's Most Excellent Collection," a three-disc box set that celebrates a pair of comedies that also revolve around the cluelessness of the lead characters. The collection includes "Bill & amp; Ted's Excellent Adventure," the 1989 hit that caused hundreds of high school kids to add the word "bogus" to their vocabulary; the inferior 1991 sequel, "Bill & amp; Ted's Bogus Journey," only worth watching for the Grim Reaper scene that riotously parodies Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal"; and a "nonbogus" third disc devoted strictly to bonus materials.
The plentiful extras include a half-hour making-of documentary; a dull interview with screenwriters Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon; a slightly more interesting chat with guitarist Steve Vai, who composed some of the music for "Bogus Journey;" the first episode of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon inspired by the films; and a tutorial from expert air guitarists Bjorn Turoque and the Rockness Monster (far cooler than a ukulele lesson).
Of course, this collection would be even more excellent if star Keanu Reeves, who may have hit his acting pinnacle with his charming portrayal of Ted, were anywhere to be found among this new supplemental material. Still, even with the star's absence, this DVD is sure to satisfy most "Bill & amp; Ted" fans.
Most Hilarious Bonus Point: The air guitar tutorial on the "Bill & amp; Ted" set is filled with almost as many catchphrases as both movies combined. Turoque (pronounced "to rock") calls himself "the second-best air guitarist in the world" and notes becoming a true air guitarist means "sacrificing your friends, your family and your dignity, really." Later, he offers this piece of air guitaring advice: "Be there with the rock, and the rock will come to you." As Abraham Lincoln says in "Adventure": Party on, dude.