The Super Bowl may be over, but football junkies like me can still get our fix of the game from Hollywood. Although not directly about the sport, Jerry Maguire features enough exciting action and fun cameos. It also proves to be one of the best romantic comedies of the 1990s. Jerry Maguire is that unique kind of film that appeals to men and women alike. It can be considered both a chick flick and a sports movie. Maybe that is why the movie won the heart of critics and audiences alike when it was released in 1996, earning five Oscar nominations including Best Picture.
Tom Cruise plays slick sports agent Jerry Maguire. At the height of his career, Maguire’s conscience is challenged by the son of an injured hockey player and on one inspired night, he writes a “mission statement” defining what the future of the business should be. The part about “fewer clients, less money” doesn’t sit well with his superiors, however, and he soon finds himself out of a job and reduced to only two clients. When the number one pick in the NFL draft drops him the night before the draft, Jerry’s future is left in the hands of the talented, but mouthy wide receiver Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.).
The only other person in his life is Dorothy Boyd (Renee Zellweger), an accountant who followed Jerry on his new business adventure inspired by his “mission statement.” Dorothy is a single mother and her son Ray (Jonathon Lipnicki) immediately hits it off with Jerry. It isn’t long before she falls for Jerry herself.
There are scenes in this movie that are incredibly charming. Most of them involve Lipnicki, such as when he wants Jerry to give him a hug or when he bombards Jerry with facts about the human head and his neighbor’s rabbits. He also provides one of the film’s most heartbreaking moments when he tells Jerry to “go ahead and go.”
Jerry Maguire almost seems to be a turning point in the career of Tom Cruise. From then on, the superstar seems more grown-up in each of his films. I’m not quite sure how to explain what I mean, but it is almost as if Maguire was the equivalent of the bar exam. Before he was just a law student, now he is a full blown lawyer. Whether a turning point or not, Jerry Maguire is definitely to the nineties what Top Gun was for Cruise in the eighties; it seems to define his persona for the decade. If anyone wanted a broad outline of Cruise’s career, they should start with those two films.
The movie was both directed and written by Cameron Crowe. The screenplay stands as one of the best in the past ten years, particularly in the romantic comedy genre. It isn’t often that a screenwriter can claim more than one popular catch phrase, but Crowe manages two in one movie. “Show me the money” almost became a curse for Cuba Gooding Jr. The actor walked away with an Oscar for his performance but despite a few good supporting turns (As Good as it Gets; What Dreams May Come) and one good lead performance (Men of Honor) he hasn’t quite crawled out of “money” shadow.
Renee Zellweger, on the other hand, has ridden “you had me at hello” straight to the top of the A-list. The actress, who before had starred in a handful of smaller films, earned a Golden Globe in 2000 for Nurse Betty, earned an Oscar nomination last year for Bridget Jones’ Diary and is getting great Oscar buzz this year for Chicago.
As an extra bonus, Seattle residents will find the movie loaded with plenty of local color. Although the film does not take place anywhere near Seattle like Crowe’s previous film (Singles), you will find plenty of references to both the Seahawks and the Sonics and in a drunken speech Jerry calls himself the “king of the Kingdome.” Even Dorothy’s coffee table is decorated with a replica of the Space Needle.
The Special Edition DVD of the film comes with plenty of extra features, but the highlight is a video commentary. On the bottom half of the screen we see the film and on the upper half we see Crowe, Cruise, Zellweger and Gooding watching the film, reacting to it and discussing it. It’s a feature I haven’t seen on any other DVD but I would like to see it more often.
The movie is a delight to watch and after six years, it hasn’t lost a thing. I give it an A.