Jerry Maguire
directed by Cameron Crowe
(Columbia TriStar, 1996)

Jerry Maguire looks at first glance like a sports flick. A little past the surface, you'll see a romantic comedy/drama and, at some levels, a buddy film. But what Jerry Maguire is really about is idealism -- not just on the playing field or in the field of sports management, but in the way people live and work.

It's easy to talk about making changes in your life, changes which might be a bit risky in practice. Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) is a successful, high-profile sports agent who, at age 35, develops a conscience about the way he does business, about the way he steamrolls athletes in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

Jerry's life was at its peak. He was one of the best in his line, he was making a mint representing some of the best athletes in the country, and he was engaged to marry the beautiful Avery Bishop (Kelly Preston). But a midnight epiphany leads to a crisis of faith, and he drafts a "mission statement" for his company promoting more idealism and genuine concern for people -- and less profit. It sounds inspiring, yes, but it displeases the big wallets upstairs, so Jerry is fired by smarmy agent Bob Sugar (Jay Mohr) and loses nearly every client on his roster.

He succeeds only in retaining Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.), an Arizona wide receiver with a lot of potential and attitude. On that slim foundation -- and the loyalty of one employee who follows Jerry in his new venture -- Jerry begins to build anew.

Tom Cruise is great in the role, exhibiting just the right amounts of passion, optimism and panic as his rollercoaster runs its course. But as good as Cruise is -- and yes, I mean it, he's very good -- Gooding Jr. steals the show. His "show me the money" outlook on life is over the top, funny and fun, and he's a bouncing ball of energy on screen.

The spotlight also lingers quite a lot on Renee Zellweger as Dorothy Boyd, the office accountant who is inspired by Jerry's new outlook to quit her job and follow him. Zellweger is not the typical Hollywood starlet, but she is adorable as Jerry Maguire's leading lady, completely bursting off the screen with love, warmth and loyalty, not only for her would-be love interest but also for her son. Watching her watching them together is priceless. Zellweger is pure pleasure to watch every time she's on the screen.

Other key members of the cast include Bonnie Hunt as Laurel Boyd, Dorothy's compassionate but disapproving sister; Regina King as Marcee Tidwell, Rod's amazingly loving wife; Jerry O'Connell as Frank Cushman, the top draft choice who slipped through Jerry's fingers; and Beau Bridges as Matt Cushman, Frank's slightly slimy father. Special credit goes to Jonathan Lipnicki as Ray, Dorothy's adorable and, yes, precocious son. I've seen this kid in movies and TV shows since, and directors keep shooting for the heights he hit here, easily dominating every scene he is in like a veteran performer.

Some people dismiss Jerry Maguire as a film about privileged people desperately hanging on to their privileges, but there's a lot more to it than that. The movie shows a lot of heart and, pay attention Hollywood, a sense of conscience all too lacking in movies and, dare I say it, the world today. We should all have so much courage to hang the consequences and do what's right.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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