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Critic's Pick

'Jerry Maguire'

January 11, 1998|Kenneth Turan

With Tom Cruise (left), being all he should be in the title role, Cameron Crowe's 1996 hit shows how to use Hollywood stars and traditional romantic comedy forms to build something satisfying and personal. This is a wholly unexpected film, as heady and surprising in its humor as in its emotional texture. Utilizing an offbeat story arc that trusts us to be savvy, "Jerry Maguire" also finds the space to deal with what the worship of money and success is doing to cultural values and, almost incidentally, to offer a believable look at the pluses and stresses of interracial friendship. Not bad for what might be mistaken for a charming little romance. Crowe's core idea, and one of his shrewdest, was to place all of this where it fits best, in the world of professional sports, where honesty and trust are suspect and the victory at all costs ethos covers all manner of cutthroat sins. Cruise plays a top sports agent whose career hits a snag, and an Oscar-winning Cuba Gooding Jr. (right) is the one athlete Magurie might not have minded losing (Showtime Saturday at 8 p.m.).

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