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I was recently at an event where I was meeting some members of one of my favorite pro sports teams, and I was having a nice conversation with one of the newer players. But it's not like that should be a surprise to me, because I'm a fan of lesser popular sports on the American sports scale, in large part because the athletes of those sports are far more approachable and modest than the run of the mill football or basketball player. As it turns out, the guy I was talking to wasn't even making half of the money I was; he was playing for the love of the game, and the money will sort itself out. Isn't that how athletes should be? It's with that little powder keg of discussion that allows me to segue into revisiting Jerry Maguire. Cameron Crowe, who wrote and directed the film, possessed experience writing quirky films that just happened to have elements of comedy and romance in them, without being full-fledged romantic comedies. His previous life as a teenaged staff writer for Rolling Stone afforded him the opportunity to have music as the background of many of those films (like Say Anything and Fast Times at Ridgemont High), but he used sports as the backdrop for this one.
The title character is played by Tom Cruise (Mission: Impossible III), a sports agent in a high-powered firm who continues to support and advocate for his client, sometimes at all physical costs to the athlete. In a moment of revelation, he thinks that the firm can do better, be more human, as it were, and one night writes and publishes a manifesto of sorts that illustrates how to do this. Of course, the firm's main motivation is to be profitable and not nice, so he is unceremoniously dumped, and he is unable to retain his clients either, except for one, a middle-of-the-pack football player named Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr., A Few Good Men) whose mouth appears to have more talent than he does. He also has Dorothy (Renee Zellweger, Cold Mountain), a secretary who read Jerry's memo, enjoyed it and leaves the firm with him. From there, each of the male characters seem to have separate revelations from their work; Rod's willingness to take a hit or two quietly elevates his status within the NFL, and Jerry's personal adaptation into a relationship, where he had previously feared commitment, but was almost addicted to companionship that was far from serious.
Consider the scene where Dorothy's son Ray (Jonathan Lipnicki, Stuart Little) asks to come into the bedroom where Jerry and Dorothy are talking about Jerry's thoughts on a dinner with Rod and his wife Marcee (Regina King, Ray). Dorothy asks him to wait, Jerry basically invites him in, and Ray comes in and plops down in the middle of the bed. Jerry's trying to avoid his feelings, so when the time comes in the film to celebrate, Jerry doesn't have anyone to celebrate with. This fact dawns on him just as clearly as the moment to write his memo did, and he acts accordingly. Ultimately, while Crowe's story might not deliver the "anti-greedy sports athlete" message as I might have inferred earlier, the underlying message is the same. Never forget what's important, and never forget what makes you into the person or athlete you are. It's the people you're around, and the love of the game that you possess, that drives you into the positions that you attain. That's a lesson we could all learn from.
A real quick word on all of the transcendent stuff from the film, like the famous lines, and Gooding's performance. While "show me the money!" was a funny line and all, I believe it was the late Gene Siskel who helped describe the sequence it was shown in with much greater clarity. The utterance is a chance for Jerry to evolve from being cold and calculated, always looking to spin something no matter how silly it is, to someone who acts with more feeling and impulse. When Dorothy says "you had me at hello," it's because of the gesture that Jerry made, not because of the speech he delivers afterward. It's those moments that make Jerry Maguire still watchable after so many years, along with the charm and wit that Crowe has been known for delivering for over two decades now.The Blu-ray:
Jerry Maguire arrives on Blu-ray with an MPEG-4 encoded 1.85:1 widescreen presentation that's a little confusing. Some scenes are quite clear, though others seemed to look not that much better than the standard definition version, and at first my hunch I was looking at an MPEG-2 presentation. Nope. While film grain is present in many scenes (the celebratory Tidwell touchdown dance being the first that comes to mind), blacks are erratic and whites are a little blown out, and can be spotted in the opening sequences and doesn't seem to resolve itself. Overall, the presentation of the disc appears to be better than the 2002 Special Edition that I had, so I'm not going to get rid of this disc anytime soon.Sound:
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack brings out all of the love that Crowe gives to the Who and Bruce Springsteen in a crisp, clear manner. But beyond that, the soundtrack is a little bit underwhelming. Dialogue is pretty even and doesn't require you to reach for the remote too often, and there are some directional effects both in the beginning and end of the film that remind you that yes, you do have some surround speakers. But otherwise, subwoofer engagement isn't too existent, even in the football scenes where the sound effects for the tackles are punched up a little bit, and the environment is hardly immersive. With the perspective that Jerry Maguire isn't here to wow you sonically, it's decent but hardly noteworthy.Extras:
All of the extras from the two-disc special edition are included, except for the picture-in-picture function on the commentary I'm about to mention. Crowe, Cruise, Gooding and Zellweger came together to discuss the film, and for that big of a group of people, none of them really had that much to say. Crowe does try to keep the conversation fires stoked, and Gooding attempts to keep things lively too, but Zellweger is a little too reactive and Cruise doesn't bring anything to the table. While there's a lot of spotting people in scenes, along with a bunch of group admiration, there's hardly anything informational here worth listening to. There are five deleted scenes (8:45) with optional commentary, and aside from Jay Mohr (Saturday Night Live) and Donal Logue (The Tao of Steve) doing an extended ad lib sequence where they woo Jerry's clients from him, the other scenes are forgettable. Two minutes of rehearsal footage of Cruise and Gooding, both in individual and as a pair is next, and are hardly enlightening. The mission statement that was the heart of the film follows, and it is set against the Bruce Springsteen song "Secret Garden," and all 45 pages of the statement can be viewed. The Reebok commercial that Gooding's character does is next (0:51), in case you missed it on the end credits. "How to Be a Sports Agent" (3:40) brings us into the smarmy little world of Drew Rosenhaus, who people might recognize as the agent for Terrell Owens and several other athletes. The making of featurette (7:15) is your typical electronic press kit produced by the studio at the time of the film's production, with interviews from the cast and crew, and some scenes that didn't appear to be in the film's final cut but weren't of any consequence. The video for Springsteen's song is next, along with trailers for Men in Black and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and the disc is BD-Live enabled for you to download trailers for recent catalog films and other good stuff.Final Thoughts:
Jerry Maguire still remains in the minds and hearts of people years after its release, and at that level, Cameron Crowe has managed to achieve something that many filmmakers and artists yearn for. As far as the Blu-ray disc goes, the audio and video merits are definite upgrades from the standard definition version, and the extras are basically the same as well, so if you liked the movie, a double-dip is in order. If you've never seen the movie, then what are you still doing here? Go check it out.