In 1996, a little star-studded rom-com called ‘Jerry Maguire’ did the impossible: it became one of the go-to date flicks of the ‘90s, racked up an impressive box office tally, managed to enchant Academy Award voters, and gave Cuba Gooding Jr. an excuse to deliver one of the most memorable, exuberant acceptance speeches in Oscar history. I don’t want to overstate its cinematic significance, but ‘Jerry Maguire’ has weathered the years exceptionally well. More than a decade later, its quotable catch phrases are still popping up everywhere (defining the Joker’s perception of Batman in ‘The Dark Knight,’ no less), it remains one of Tom Cruise’s most well-known films, and continues to win over many young filmfans just now catching it for the first time.
Successful sports agent Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) has it all -- a cozy job and a nice salary at Sports Management International, a lengthy list of famous clients, and an ideal relationship with a strong, self-sufficient woman named Avery (Kelly Preston). However, when a moral epiphany inspires him to write and distribute an inner-office manifesto called “The Things We Think and Do Not Say,” Jerry’s fired by a ruthless colleague (Jay Mohr), accompanied out the door by an idealist named Dorothy (Renee Zellweger), and left with a single client: a cocky football player named Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr). As Jerry begins to develop a genuine affection for Dorothy and her young son (Jonathan Lipnicki), he struggles to start a new agency and help Rod get a new NFL contract.
How writer/director Cameron Crowe (‘Almost Famous’ and ‘Vanilla Sky’) managed to craft both a beloved romantic dramedy for women and a side-splitting introspective comedy for men is beyond me, but he certainly pulled it off. For much of the movie, Jerry is a self-serving character whose bouts of humanity conflict with his underlying ego and greed. Likewise, Rod is a pompous egomaniac who relies on a boisterous personality to mask his insecurities and fears. Completing the picture is Dorothy, a whirlwind of emotions who follows a man on a whim and then flounders as she tries to navigate three simultaneous roles: mother, employee, and lover. All three characters are incredibly complex, are full of constant surprises, and never really fit into the Romantic Comedy mold. While the film does have its share of clichéd developments, it handles each one quite well and pairs them with hilarious scenarios and witty, revealing dialogue. Crowe has always had a gift for bringing his scripts to life and ‘Jerry Maguire’ is one of his best -- the writer/director makes it easy to root for, connect to, and fall in love with his characters.
If I have any problem with ‘Jerry Maguire’ it’s that I’m always plagued with doubt after the credits role. Jerry’s final, third act maturation is believable, but happens so abruptly (and so immediately after hitting bottom) that it doesn’t seem like it would necessarily be a long lasting development. Perhaps Cruise nails Jerry’s less-than-desirable traits so thoroughly that it’s difficult to buy into his ultimate transformation. Maybe Dorothy’s such a sympathetic character that I continue to hope she’s not about to be a victim of further selfish behavior. Or it could be the fact that Rod is the only character in the film who undergoes an authentic and impactful arc. Regardless of the cause, I rarely finish the film with the same warm-fuzzies that I feel during its best scenes.
Regardless, ‘Jerry Maguire’ is what a romantic comedy should be -- a film that appeals to both men and women, offers clever wit and hearty laughs, and, for better or worse, addresses the true nature of human relationships. It’s one of the few films my wife and I both count as personal favorites, and one we find ourselves watching together again and again. I can’t say it’s the best genre pic I’ve seen, but I can say everyone should give it a chance.
’Jerry Maguire’ arrives on Blu-ray with a decent 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that has to contend with a few too many issues to earn its place amongst the best catalog titles on the market. The warm color palette and the actors’ skintones are both striking and natural, but I occasionally encountered faint contrast wavering, unresolved black levels, blooming whites, and bleeding primaries. For every scene that marked a substantial improvement over the DVD, a subsequent shot would drift soft or look less refined than other high-scoring catalog releases. Likewise, textures and fine details have received a welcome boost due to the presentation’s increased resolution, but the image doesn’t have the three-dimensional pop that allows the viewer to immerse themselves in the experience. Thankfully, the transfer doesn’t suffer from any significant source noise, banding or artifacting. I also didn’t notice any of the intrusive edge enhancement that haunted previous versions of the film.
All in all, ‘Jerry Maguire’ delivers an above average high-def presentation that looks much better than its standard DVD counterpart. It’s just a shame that it isn’t strong enough to compete with other catalog releases.
Underwhelming and limited as its original sound design may be, the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track featured on ‘Jerry Maguire’ is a solid catalog effort that should please fans of the film. Dialogue is crisp and well prioritized, pans are transparent, and interior acoustics are convincing. Ambience is a bit haphazard and inconsistent during quieter moment, but several scenes in the third act deliver the goods. In these brief instances, the LFE channel adds decent weight to the soundscape, the rear speakers are tasked with more aggressive work, and the track’s dynamics are enhanced throughout the soundfield.
Still, it doesn’t change the fact that ‘Jerry Maguire’ is a conversational comedy and will never pack the punch of a modern actioner. Its fans will just have to enjoy a competent and proficient lossless mix that does a good job handling relatively little.
The Blu-ray edition of ‘Jerry Maguire’ features most of the supplemental content from the Special Edition DVD (minus an optional PiP presentation of the commentary and a photo gallery). However, don’t be fooled by the disc’s long list of extras. Even for a fan like myself, the supplements are dull, unrevealing, and a waste of time.
’Jerry Maguire’ is one of those rare romantic comedies that captures every member of its audience, regardless of gender, age, or personal experiences. It’s a truly funny genre pic that delivers plenty of laughs, sharp wit, and a compelling story. Unfortunately, this Blu-ray release doesn’t pack as much punch as the film itself. It features a decent but problematic video transfer, a faithful but limited lossless audio track, and a fairly appalling supplemental package. While the presentation is a clear upgrade from the DVD, this disc simply doesn’t live up to better catalog releases on the market.