1996, R, 135 min. Directed by Cameron Crowe. Starring Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding, Renee Zellweger, Kelly Preston, Jerry O'Connell, Jay Mohr, Regina King, Bonnie Hunt, Jonathan Lipnicki, Todd Louiso.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Dec. 13, 1996
Jerry Maguire opens with the kind of event that a more traditional movie would generally save for its concluding moments. This disruption should be our first indication that Cameron Crowe's new movie is anything but “business as usual.” At the outset of the story, top-of-his-game sports agent Jerry Maguire (Cruise) suffers a pang of conscience that causes him to stay up all night and write an impromptu 25-page-long rant entitled “The Things We Think and Do Not Say: The Future of Our Business.” Before dawn, Jerry has his idealistic mission statement photocopied, bound, and distributed company-wide, eliminating all possibility of turning back in the light of day. What Jerry proposes is the agency's elimination of “business as usual” and a refocusing of the company's goals toward quality rather than quantity: placing the firm's values in people rather than dollars. Jerry's revelation is the kind of yuppie crisis of faith that other movies structurally build toward, the kind of leaf-turning that signals a happy ending just around the bend and better days ahead. But in Jerry Maguire, the bold act of conscience is only the beginning. Of course, Jerry's midnight scribblings cause him to be fired within the week, thus forcing him to confront the wisdom of his ideals. Only two other people flock to his camp: Dorothy Boyd (Zellweger), an agency bookkeeper who defects with Jerry, and Rod Tidwell (Gooding), a second-tier wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals. Jerry's crisis, however, is interesting in that it doesn't really force him to question the root of what he does, only the manner in which the business is conducted. (For example, the creation of a meretricious, sports-merchandising phenomenon such as Space Jam might still be one of Jerry Maguire's goals; only now he'd make sure that no human beings were harmed during its making.) Swiftly abandoned by his high-powered fiancée (Preston), it's not long before Jerry and Dorothy are found tying the knot. Dorothy loves him for “the man he nearly is”; Jerry still has to learn the difference between loyalty and love. We've seen Cruise play this type of smooth operator before: the button-down yupster with the Cheshire grin. What's fascinating is the depth of humanity Cruise finds within the character of Jerry and also Cruise's generosity toward the other actors in the story -- a generosity that allows all the other performers to shine and create vivid and memorable characters. Cuba Gooding, Jr. practically steals the show as the ball player with a mouth and attitude as big as his heart. As his proud and loving wife, Regina King delivers a searingly real portrait of a proud black woman and football spouse. Newcomer (and Austin success story) Renee Zellweger takes to the screen like a true natural, and as her caustic yet loving sister Bonnie Hunt winningly serves as the audience's eyes and ears. And captivating new kid star on the block Jonathan Lipnicki demonstrates the truth in the old show-biz adage about never working with dogs, children, or other natural scene-stealers. Very much in keeping with Cameron Crowe's previous writing-directing projects Say Anything and Singles, Jerry Maguire is another sweet (though somewhat long) movie wrapped around a jagged emotional core -- one of those tempting sugar confections you devour halfway through before recognizing the strange new taste sensations at the center.