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Jerry Maguire

(1996) *** 1/2 R
138 min. Columbia Pictures. Directors: Allan Graf, Cameron Crowe. Cast: Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr, Renee Zellweger, Kelly Preston, Jerry O'Connell.

/content/films/3229/14.jpgWriter-director Cameron Crowe's monster hit Jerry Maguire is a quintessential star vehicle. In his Oscar-nominated leading performance, Tom Cruise gets an opportunity to play a broad emotional spectrum of comic and dramatic colors. Cuba Gooding Jr. was the only one to take home Oscar gold, but the film paid career dividends for all involved. Audiences got something out of it too: a crowd-pleasing romantic comedy with enough complexity to set it ahead of the pack.

Cruise's Maguire is a high-powered sports agent who explains, in an opening narration of rare length, that "Something just isn't right" in his life. Feeling simultaneously defined and hemmed in by his career and impending marriage to a voracious, ambitious modern woman (Kelly Preston), Maguire has a meltdown. Pulling a allnighter, he taps out a personal manifesto he calls "The Things We Think and Do Not Say: The Future of Our Business." The memo decries the rampant, soulless money-grubbing of his industry, which crowds out personal connections and quality of life in favor of dollar signs secured over the phone. Feeling his oats, he even has the memo bound at a copy shop to resemble The Catcher in the Rye. Jerry's liberal self-satisfaction curdles when he realizes that finding religion is sure to cost him his job. Sure enough, he quickly finds himself out in the cold with only one client: second-string wide receiver Rod Tidwell (Gooding), who plans to hold Jerry to his pledge that he cares while also demanding, "Show me the money!" (Regina King matches Gooding note for note as the other half of the  perfect couple that seems to mock Jerry's romantic failings.)

Maguire's only other ally is accountant Dorothy Boyd (Renee Zellweger), who agrees to pack in her job and follow the flop-sweating Jerry into an uncertain future. Widowed mother to a five-year-old moppet named Ray (Jonathan Lipnicki), Dorothy gets constant reality checks from "disapproving sister" Laurel (Bonnie Hunt, at her silver-tongued best), but she can't resist the idealistic Jerry, even though she knows he's just not that into her. As Jerry tries to prove to himself he's the man he wants to be, he falls for Ray, the only one showing him unconditional love. Here, Crowe locates a psychologically acute stumbling block for his romance, with one party trying to do the presumable right thing for the wrong reasons. By the time the film rolls around to its infamous kicker, with Jerry sorting out his purportedly true feelings, it's fair to wonder if we as an audience are as deluded as the lovers, wanting to swoon for a wishful picture of love rather than face reality: a complex collection of selfish neuroses.

The film's feel-good populism may not be for everyone, but it comes pretty close. Crowe has made no secret of wishing to emulate his hero Billy Wilder; Crowe is more of a vanilla guy, but he does succeed in holding the mirror up to American attitudes while never forgetting to entertain. If Jerry Maguire sings more than it stings, at least Crowe's willing to ask some hard questions without constantly patting his characters on the back. The script is genuinely funny much of the time, and the vivid characters flawed but likeable. Much of the film's success rests on its incisive, witty dialogue, like those lines that show Jerry at the various stages in his growth: ruthless capitalist ("I don't like black people? I am Mister Black People"), self-doubting striver in transition ("Twenty-four hours ago, man, I was hot! Now, I'm a cautionary tale"), and clear-eyed convert to his own cause ("We live in a cynical world"). Here is a film about people who inspire each other to be better people, with the potential to do the same for its audience. Along with a willingness to bite the hand that fed it and a few good laughs, that's a mainstream Hollywood picture I can get behind.

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Aspect ratios: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Number of discs: 1

Audio: Dolby True HD 5.1

Street date: 9/9/2008

Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Sony brings Jerry Maguire to Blu-ray in a special edition that retains nearly all of the bonus features from the DVD. The catalog title gets a solid AV transfer that easily puts the DVD equivalent to shame with its generally sharper image and increased depth and a best-case scenario Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround soundtrack that succeeds in giving the comedy a theatrical wraparound effect.

The centerpiece of the bonus features is an audio commentary with Cameron Crowe, Tom Cruise, Renee Zellweger and Cuba Gooding Jr. On DVD, this was offered as a video commentary, but for whatever reason (an added payment to the actors? an authoring issue?), the video isn't on the Blu-ray. It's interesting to watch the film alongside the director and cast, though it would have been advisable to give Crowe a separate track as well to get into a bit more depth than this peppy lovefest can muster.

The disc also delivers a number of very cool bite-sized video-based extras: Deleted Scenes with optional director's and editor's commentary (8:45 with "Play All" option), Rehearsal Footage with optional director's and editor's commentary (2:00), a brilliant "Rod Tidwell Commercial" (:51), Bruce Springsteen's "Secret Garden" music video, and an EPK "Making Of Featurette" (7:15) with Crowe, Cruise, Zellweger and Gooding. Best of set goes to "How to Be a Sports Agent" (3:40), which encapsulates the useful research done for the film as a mile-a-minute agent models Jerry Maguire and his peers.

Another nifty extra is the complete text of Jerry Maguire's Mission Statement (presented on 45 screens, to a mutable loop of Springsteen). Lastly the disc, like all Sony discs, is BD Live enabled, linking out to additional online content.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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