Cameron Crowe is typically can’t-miss for me. His 2000 film Almost Famous is my favorite movie. His recent work on the documentary Pearl Jam Twenty, and his early films like Fast Times (as a writer only), Say Anything..., and Singles all rank up there and call to mind particular moments in my life.
Hell, even Jerry Maguire reminds me of the fall of 1996. A senior in high school living in my parents’ basement, listening to lots of Dave Matthews Band (tough times, I know), and counting down the days until I left for college, I vividly recall seeing the trailer, and the movie had me at hello.
Fancying myself a romantic, and apparently not noticing Renee Zellweger’s strange and disquieting penchant for squinting, I couldn’t wait until it was released, saw in it the theater, and eventually bought both the DVD and the Bruce Springsteen Greatest Hits album with “Secret Garden,” a song featured in the movie.
It wasn’t until years later that I began to appreciate Jerry Maguire’s shortcomings, especially as a sports film.
Crowe tends to paint in broad strokes in his films, trying to mold characters into particular roles, symbols, or images, but it falls flat in the context of professional sports, where the characters are already larger than life. Jerry Maguire is so full of easy characterizations that the characters morph into caricatures of themselves.
Take, for example, Cuba Gooding Jr.’s Oscar-winning performance as Rod Tidwell, the eccentric yet underperforming wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals. Tidwell wasn’t just a prima donna athlete. No, he had to be Deion Sanders, Michael Irvin and Allen Iverson all rolled up into one.
Tom Cruise’s portrayal of Mr. Maguire is, well, it’s Tom Cruise. That is to say it’s overacted, overwrought and overrated.
Not to mention, the crazy look in Maguire’s eyes when he flips out at the beginning of the movie doesn’t seem so far-fetched having seen Cruise’s 2006 performance on Oprah (and knowing about Cruise’s devotion to Scientology and creepy marriage to Katie Holmes).
Did I mention I’m not a fan of Tom Cruise? I apologize if I didn’t.
Oh yeah, and not only is Maguire’s love interest Dorothy Boyd (played by Renee Zellweger) a single mom, she lives with her divorced sister who runs a divorced women’s support group.
Wait, remind me again: does Dorothy have any man issues?
Jerry Maguire is a romantic comedy masquerading as a sports movie. Maguire and Dorothy’s romance and Maguire’s relationship with her son drive the movie, and Crowe’s picture of the word of sports agents was hardly eye-opening, given the movie was released long after the squeaky-clean shine had worn off sports, both amateur and pro.
There is minimal on-field action, and the little bit there is revolves around Tidwell’s obnoxious and attention-seeking touchdown celebration that nearly gives his wife a heart attack.
In the end, there is simply no meat to Jerry Maguire. Its characters are boring and generic, and it's a predictable love story with little focus on sports. Despite its shortcomings, the firm garners stellar ratings from both critics and the rest of us, and that's why its the most overrated sports movie ever.
Suggested Alternatives: Any Given Sunday (1999) or The Program (1993)