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Jerry Maguire A, A-

US/1996/Color/Widescreen Anamorphic 1.85:1 or Letterbox/Dolby Digital 5:1/139 minutes/Directed by Cameron Crowe/Starring Tom Cruise, Renee Zellweger, Cuba Gooding, Jr./Col-Tristar/63 chaps/$29.95 

 I found two different films in Jerry Maguire. The first time it was dominated by the world around it.  The second time its wonderful romance spun magic gloriously.  Both films work. They work separately. They work individually. It’s a great achievement for writer/director Cameron Crowe. Crowe’s output since his screenwriting debut with Fast Times at Ridgemont High in 1982 has been spare. The creative gestation period needs patience. Proof is the body of work that Crowe is building. The delightful Say Anything in 1989 was Crowe’s first writing/directing double. He followed that with Singles, an on target look at young people trying to find themselves and now, Crowe emerges with his greatest achievement, Jerry Maguire.

 Jerry Maguire is a top sports agent at the crossroads of his life. In a self-searching moment, Jerry formulates a new philosophy for sports agents and makes the mistake of distributing copies of his “manifesto” to his peers. The realization of what he has done is a refreshing moment, but Jerry can’t get his manuscripts back otherwise there would be no movie and no journey for this character. Jerry must find a way to make his manifesto work as an agent and a man. The two journeys blend sublimely.

 Crowe mixes wonderful elements to produce a sterling screenplay. Crowe integrates the many comic moments into the natural flow of action. Jerry Maguire is a likable character. His co-worker Dorothy Boyd is a wonderful love interest.  Dorothy has a terrific kid who ignites  Jerry’s paternal instincts. Maguire couldn’t have a more challenging enigmatic client than football wide receiver Rod Tidwell. And Tidwell’s family is treasure to be mined.

 Tom Cruise brings all his boyish ebullience  to the character of Jerry Maguire. In no small measure, the force of Cruise’s screen presence forges the title character with elements that prevent him from looking bad even at his most critical moments. He handles dialogue beautifully. This is the best Cruise since Rain Man. It’s perfect casting.  Providing love interest for Cruise, Renee Zellweger is a refreshing screen charmer.  The actress provides Dorothy Boyd with equal measures of  realist and dreamer. She does a lot of acting with her facial expressions going beyond the limits of the script. Cuba Gooding, Jr. is an absolute joy as Rod Tidwell. Gooding infuses Jerry Maguire with an enormous surge of energy. Gooding was awarded for his fine performance with an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.  Many of the smaller supporting roles are realized with equal vigor. Regina King is dynamite as Marcee Tidwell and Bonnie Hunt gives Dorothy’s sister Laurel Boyd all the easy-going sass of a comedienne with natural delivery. Jonathan Lipnicki is one great kid as little Ray Boyd. Everybody wants to grab him up for a big hug. And don’t diminish the contribution of the smallest actor in Jerry Maguire.

 The writing is simply beautiful. Lines like “You complete me.” And “ Show me the money.” are memorable and reflect the two different Jerry Maguire movies. The arc of the movie is graceful and a true crowd-pleaser. You know that the writer Crowe perused Jerry Maguire’s journey with a magnifying glass making certain that every turn follows a truthful road. Director Crowe does a terrific job a keeping the timing of the film perfectly in tune with story and characters. Jerry Maguire provides more “feel good” movie moments than the entire Hollywood output in a typical year. And it even plays with more depth on subsequent screenings.

 Jerry Maguire is a splendid DVD offering. The anamorphic transfer provides maximum vertical resolution for 16 x 9. The color is very good showing off the lovely photography of Janusz Kaminksi. A scene at a copier store provides an amazing rendition of blues and reds tinted by a fluorescent cast. The surround sound works well. The beautifully scripted dialogue is cleanly delivered.  Football stadium sequences offer proper ambient sense and Nancy Wilson’s score blends elegantly with the action. A caveat: Columbia Tristar  DVDs seem to default to two channel Dolby Digital. If you are using a surround sound processor, make sure to adjust the audio button on your DVD player to provide the Dolby Digital 5:1 tracks. The mystery of electronic interfaces is often baffling. The package does not indicate Jerry Maguire is presented in an anamorphic transfer. No DVD interface extras are provided.