Jerry Maguire (1996)

Jerry Maguire is the kind of sweet, kind of funny movie that you watch after a hard day and feel relief. It makes you happy to put it on, and is a pleasant viewing experience, more or less, from start to finish. It’s a story of redemption, about love, and about determination, and it’s purportedly based on true events, although in Hollywood, how much does that really matter? It’s light-hearted and contains far better performances than romantic comedies usually do, and is absolutely worth taking the time to see.

The lead goes to Tom Cruise, playing Jerry Maguire, a hotshot sports agent — the best in the business, if his word is to be believed. He winds up writing a memo about how he and his colleagues are taking on too much work and making their job too impersonal, which gets him cheers around the workplace as well as a termination slip. He’s fired, but vows to make his own company, offering the opportunity for anyone else to leave and come with him. Only one person accepts, a single mother named Dorothy (Renée Zellweger), who believes in his mission statement and will actually do something about it — or, at least, that’s what she wants everyone else to believe. We can already see a small crush developing.

Only one of Jerry’s athletes stays with him: A very cocky wide receiver named Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.), whose attitude problems might just cost him the contract he so desperately wants. Jerry is devastated, as he’s gone from the best around to someone in the gutter. He’s going to lean on these two individuals more than they’ll ever know, as he attempts to get himself up and brush himself off.

Jerry Maguire is not as upsetting as I possibly make it out to be. Many of the more serious moments are still light in nature. Nothing terribly bad can happen in a film like this one; it goes against the very nature of a rom-com. But even despite this, you sometimes feel as if, yes, something could go terribly wrong. And because of the pleasant, often funny, individuals involved, you don’t want to see that happen. The film can keep you on the edge of your seat despite you being well aware that everything has to go well.

There are so many memorable moments in Jerry Maguire. You watch this once, and recalling it years later there will still be at least a handful of scenes that will jump out, that you’ll instantly recall. If you haven’t yet watched the movie, you’ve likely at least seen or heard references to some of its most impressive moments. These were all written by writer-director Cameron Crowe, a man well-versed in making sweet movies.

Where the film stutters is in the middle, where there could have been some tighter editing. Here is a romantic comedy that plays for 139 minutes, and can’t quite justify it. It could take up two hours and say that it’s worth it, which is something not a lot of rom-coms can say, but at almost 20 minutes longer than that, it’s too lengthy. It’s not just the length, but with too much filler to tell a rather simple story, the strong moments don’t appear quite as often or stand out quite as much as they could have.

This is a small complaint, I assure you, and even despite the long running time, Jerry Maguire is definitely worth watching. Its other issues come from adhering a little too tightly to formula, and from pretty much anything involving Zellweger’s character, Dorothy, including Zellweger. Apart from these — and they’re minor problems, don’t get me wrong — Jerry Maguire is a very enjoyable film and you should have very little problems watching it, especially if all you want is a feel-good movie to make you, well, feel good.

It’s an overly sentimental movie where mostly everything works out in the end. It works in spite of this. It brings you likable characters, moderate but admirable ambitions, a good heart, and some humor. It even has its idea of a villain, a rival sports agent — the man Jerry trained, actually — played by Jay Mohr, who also is the one to fire Jerry from his previous job. You want to get back at this man for what he does to our protagonist. The film just happens to do that to your emotions.

It’s all because of a very likable performance by Tom Cruise, who has to be charming and troubled at the same time. Cuba Gooding Jr. turns what could have been an over-the-top performance into something much more. Zellweger is the one to let us down, although it’s not entirely her fault; her character was written in a silly way that forces tension instead of letting it happen naturally. Her character has a child, Ray (Jonathan Lipnicki), whose every scene is a joy.

Jerry Maguire is a sweet, pleasant movie that brings us nerve-racking scenes despite us being fully aware that nothing uncorrectable can happen. It’s so effective that it can take us anywhere and it would still entertain. It’s too long and a tad formulaic, but considering it’s a romantic comedy, I think we can let the last one slide; it does far more right than wrong to really knock it for either of these. It also contains a great deal of moments you’ll remember for years, and for that alone, it’s worth seeing.

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