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Tom Cruise : "Jerry Maguire"

A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here.

December 16, 1996|MIKE PENNER

Tom Cruise has played a vampire in one movie and now, in "Jerry Maguire," he portrays a sports agent.

You know what they call this in Hollywood?

Typecasting.

"Jerry Maguire" is Cruise's first real stab at science fiction, given the three fantastic premises the viewer is asked to swallow:

1. Somewhere, maybe in a parallel universe, there exists a sports agent who looks like Tom Cruise.

2. This sports agent also has a conscience, or somehow develops one, and can actually enunciate the words "Fewer clients, less money" without choking.

3. The Arizona Cardinals make the playoffs.

Betting on which is more likely to happen first, I'll take alien death rays vaporizing the White House--and give the points.

Assuming you can suspend belief on these points--completing a sort of triple jump of faith--"Jerry Maguire" is otherwise conventional and familiar, banking on the tried and profitable. It's a buddy movie, it's a single working mom-meets-Prince Charming romantic comedy, it's a cute-kid flick, it's a sports movie in which the good guys, with backs to walls and odds stacked against, pull it out in the end.

But is it funny?

It has its moments, most often whenever Cuba Gooding Jr., as the wide receiver Rod Tidwell, occupies the screen. Tidwell is the most believable part of the movie--fast-talking, self-absorbed, full of when-and-how-do-I-get-mine attitude. His credo, as uproariously dictated to Maguire: "Give ME the MON-EE!"

There may not be many Jerry Maguires in the real world, but those colleague-adversaries who snake clients from underneath Maguire's nose on the eve of the NFL draft are out there in droves, as commonplace as the dark sunglasses perched on Cruise's nose. What happens when Maguire attempts to turn over a new leaf? He is fired, of course, and loses all but one of his clients.

Maguire spends the rest of the movie regretting that decision, grousing that he ate some bad pizza and "grew a conscience." This being Hollywood, however, he can always take two antacid tablets and call a script doctor in the morning. Everyone gets happier and richer in the end.

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