DVD Review: The Jerk Theory

Josh Henderson is a nerd who acts like a jerk to get laid in a teen sex comedy that's '[as] colorful as a grey crayon with the paper missing.'

William Bibbianiby William Bibbiani


I’d like to apologize in advance on this one. This will be a poorly-written review. This is not because of any sort of lapse on my part, but, well… it’s just that Scott S. Anderson’s The Jerk Theory, on DVD today, leaves me with nothing. Really, I have nothing to say about this film. It is the worst kind of mediocre. It has no flavor, no notable moments, no personality. To call it “bland” would imply that it has a recognizable trait. The characters fulfill their archetypal traits so well, they seem like avatars for other, more interesting characters. The story is so recognizable and rote, it’s complete before they even tell it. The Jerk Theory is a möbius strip. Ever playing, never-ending, always the same.

So the premise is this: Adam (Josh Henderson, 27 at the time of filming) is an average kid attending an average Catholic high school. He has a band, and occasionally breaks into song. The songs in the film were written by and were actually performed by Henderson. Indeed, the DVD opens with an ad, encouraging you to download Henderson’s new record, so perhaps this is the reason The Jerk Theory exists at all. Adam has a theory about dating, and it’s a theory I actually share with him: It turns out that being a sensitive, funny, nice fellow inevitably leads to romantic rejection, while acting like a boorish, rude, self-absorbed jerkwad tends to land you the girls. Did anyone else notice this? That the bullies got laid more often? Adam then tries to alter his behavior in order to become more popular with the ladies. And, oddly, it works.

Only he doesn’t get laid more often. This is a Catholic high school, and there’s a lot of vow-of-chastity rhetoric. I’d say that it whiffs of sex negativity, but this film isn’t sophisticated enough to have sex negativity on its mind. There are no “promise rings” or anything like that. I think the chastity depicted in the film is actually just the average teens’ own sexless awkwardness.

Anyway, Adam’s jerk theory is tested when he meets the lovely Molly (Jenna Dewan, 28 at the time of filming, and now currently married to Channing Tatum), who senses he’s a nice guy, and tries to bring him out of his shell. Which he does very quickly. Indeed, his “jerk” act isn’t so jerky. The whole “jerk” thing is abandoned about halfway through the film, and it becomes a push-and-pull game between the two kids as to whether or not they’ll lose their virginities. He wants to. She doesn’t, etc. etc. etc.

There are many scenes in a Jacuzzi store, and all the male characters shoot the breeze about girls while sitting in empty hot tubs. That was kinda cute. Then there are… some songs… then there’s a fight over nothing… and then Danny Bonaduce shows up playing himself for some reason. He talks about sex with the kids, and warns them away from hookers. Good advice, I guess. I did chuckle mirthlessly a few times at Tom Arnold, who plays the principal and head priest at the high school. Arnold has a goofy delivery that enlivens the material a little, I guess. It was a movie… I guess.

Oh yeah, and there’s a truly offensive scene wherein the funny fat kid Clinton (Jesse Heiman) decides that the best way to seduce women is to be Latino. He actually puts on brownface, and speaks pidgin Spanish. Oddly, this works on a pair of Japanese girls.

And that’s it. Colorful as a grey crayon with the paper missing. The kids are all blandly attractive, functionally appealing, and have wacky crises that are only wacky in this universe. The Jerk Theory plays like the imaginary film from within an Air Bud film. Only its rated PG-13, so there’s some naughty language.