'Jerry Maguire': THR's 1996 Review

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Cuba Gooding Jr. and Tom Cruise in 1996's 'Jerry Maguire.'
A smart but decidedly squishy sports-world saga.

On Dec. 13, 1996, Cameron Crowe rolled out the 135-minute Tom Cruise-starrer Jerry Maguire, a commercial hit and enduring pop culture staple that grossed more than $270 million in its theatrical run. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below: 

Tom Cruise gets religion in Jerry Maguire, starring as a slick, big-time sports agent who decides that his high-powered, cutthroat profession needs a more caring and sensitive approach. With Cruise perfectly cast in this penultimate role of wheeler-dealer, Sony should ink a strong opening weekend bonus, but the film's long-term contract at the box office looks less promising. While it will surely score some big numbers based on Cruise's star appeal, this smart but decidedly squishy sports-world saga, replete with an old-movie-style love subplot, is likely to have its steadiest fans among women who read Cosmopolitan rather than men who watch ESPN. 

As "plastics" was the defining word in The Graduate, "shoe contracts" says it all in Jerry Maguire, as writer-director Cameron Crowe etches a comprehensive, behind-the-scenes look into the juggernaut jock world where teenage kids become instant millionaires and whose immature whims and excesses drive the lives of all those around him. The athletes are the cash cows, and it's the agents' job to milk every last penny out of their short-term sports careers. 

SMI sports agent Jerry Maguire (Cruise) is not only caught up in this world, he's been a driving force in shaping it. Then one day — klonk — he sees the error of his ways. He sees it in the look of a little boy whose hockey-star father has suffered yet another concussion and whom Cruise, with commission signs flashing in his eyes, encourages to get back on the ice as soon as possible. 

Feverish with insight, Jerry goes home and writes a long memo and drops it in the mailboxes of all his company's employees. Not surprisingly, it's greeted with the same kind of enthusiasm that any out-of-the-blue personal conversion is regarded. However, unlike talent agencies, whose power-peoples' behavior can be shaped and softened by in-house psychologists, SMI promptly fires Jerry. The only one who sides with him is Dorothy (Renee Zellweger), a staff secretary who quits to work with him. Jerry and Dorothy soon learn that loyalty is not a trait among Jerry's spoiled-jock clients, as only a mouthy, second-tier star footballer (Cuba Gooding Jr.) decides to stick with Jerry.

Essentially, Jerry Maguire's narrative game plan revolves around Jerry's struggles to keep his one client and set up an honorable, and yet profitable, business. Crowe's sharp insights into the business side of the sports world, coupled with a truly decent sensibility, team to flesh out a good-hearted story. 

Unfortunately, Crowe's script tends to be preachy and downslides into a touchy-feely mode that, ironically, detracts from its thematic power. In football lexicon, Crowe is best when he drills home his points rather than when he puts too much touch on them. Indicative of its wind-aided trajectory, it clocks in at 135 minutes. Additionally, the film's romantic subplot is nicely old-fashioned, but in this case it seems more a plot contrivance and more of a relationship of mutual desperation than one based on real love. Accordingly, the romantic scenes between Cruise and Zellweger are surprisingly flat. 

Consistent with his perceptive insights into this sports/marketing world, Crowe has created an array of generally credible supporting characters. However, even people who have an ingrown aversion toward agents may notice that the chief SMI agent (Jay Mohr) is over-the-top nasty. On the jock front, however, Gooding is so believable in his role as Jerry's selfish, pea-brained, wide receiver client that the Dallas Cowboys might consider signing him to complement Michael Irvin. Regina King is also a standout as the footballer's fiercely supportive wife and Bonnie Hunt delivers some wonderful verbal hits as Dorothy's man-wise sister. — Duane Byrge, originally published Dec. 9, 1996. 

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