Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire (1996)


(director/writer: Cameron Crowe; cinematographer: Janusz Kaminski; editor: Joe Hutshing; music: Danny Bramson; cast: Tom Cruise (Jerry Maguire), Cuba Gooding Jr. (Rod Tidwell), Renee Zellweger (Dorothy Boyd), Kelly Preston (Avery Bishop), Jonathan Lipnicki (Ray Boyd), Jerry O’Connell (Frank Cushman), Jay Mohr (Bob Sugar), Todd Louiso (Chad the Nanny), Regina King (Marcee Tidwell), Bonnie Hunt (Laurel Boyd) and Beau Bridges (star athlete’s father); Runtime: 138; MPAA Rating: R; producers: James L. Brooks/Laurence Mark/Richard Sakai/Cameron Crowe; Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment; 1996)

“Tom Cruise is in top form playing Jerry Maguire, a slick sports agent with a heart.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Tom Cruise is in top form playing Jerry Maguire, a slick sports agent with a heart. It’s built around whether or not you believe a self-absorbed aggressive sports agent like Jerry Maguire could overnight find spiritual redemption in his work after he has a twinge of conscience. What makes it easier to swallow is that the Jerry Maguire character is just asking to be a little better than the rotten character he realizes he has become and that he does not turn completely pious and unbelievable on us as he continues in the same line of work with just a little more care for others.

The high-flying Los Angeles agent, working for the corporate powerhouse SMI (Sports Management International), with 72 pro sports clients he pampers and tries to get commercials for to supplement their huge pro salaries, suddenly on one sleepless night feels compelled after thinking to himself “Who had I become? Just another shark in a suit?” to send his company and all staff members a glossy memo he entitles “The Things We Think and Do Not Say: The Future Of Our Business.” In it Jerry suggests they should seek fewer clients, care less about the money and have a more caring approach. After a week of sending the memo, Jerry is fired.

Jerry goes from a winner to a loser overnight, as he discovers that his career-orientated ruthless fiancée Avery Bishop (Kelly Preston) ditches him. That his colleagues who cheered him as a hero when they first read the memo, desert him as soon as he’s fired. That his protege-nemesis Burt Sugar (Jay Mohr) steals practically all his clients and bad mouths him while working the cell phone. The only client that remains with him is Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.), who is his most unappealing one. He’s the loud-mouth, arrogant, malcontent, undersized, egotistical, second-string wide receiver of the Arizona Cardinals, who is looking to make one last killing in the last year of his contract by resurrecting his career with the help of his caring agent.

What Jerry now has going for him is that single mum bookkeeper Dorothy Boyd (Zellweger), with her young son (Jonathan Lipnicki), has slavishly fallen in love with him over his idealistic decision and is willing to go the extra-mile to support her lover boy as she quits her steady job with the agency to be his entire office staff—she even takes it upon herself to apologize for his mistakes, and they get married.

What remains memorable about this crowd-pleasing but shallow romantic comedy, viewed as a clever moral fable, is the breezy contemporary catchphrase Cruise uses of “show me the money.” Since, as far as I could see, Maguire never really breaks with the money-oriented success formula that his former agency swears to, his diatribes against the agency’s cynicism and his moral rebirth seems almost meaningless. But again, if viewed as solely in the context of the sports world, writer/director/co-producer Cameron Crowe (“Say Anything…” /”Singles”/ “Vanilla Sky”) keeps it real, energetic and right on the money. He gives us an old-fashioned Hollywood romantic charmer that’s updated with modern touches such as interracial friendships and a main character who might still be a shark in a suit but is at least willing to be introspective about his darker side (which I assume is not very common among sports agents).

It earned an Academy Award for Cuba Gooding Jr. and provided a breakthrough role for Renee Zellweger.