Last month, Jerry Maguire marked its 20th anniversary. This week, a newly refurbished Blu-ray edition was released. Therefore, we have an excuse to revisit a classic movie that seemingly every single person on the face of the Earth has seen. However, what is there to say about Jerry Maguire that hasn’t already been said?
Well, plenty, actually. Because people only talk about the same three things when it comes to Jerry Maguire.
1. “Show me the money!”
2. “You complete me!”/”You had me at hello!”
3. How it’s weird that little Jonathan Lipnicki aged into this weirdly muscular fellow.
Jerry Maguire made a major impact on pop culture. There are literally tens of thousands of VHS tapes standing in a monument that speak to how popular this film once was. So, it’s worth delving past the well-worn catchphrases to other aspects of the film that have been forgotten. In fact, there are 22 other important things about Jerry Maguire that you probably don’t remember.
1. Jerry Maguire is pretty good. It holds up about 65 percent of the time.
2. Part of the 35 percent that doesn’t hold up includes what was once one of Jerry Maguire‘s best jokes back in 1996 — Cuba Gooding, Jr. as Rod Tidwell is mistaken for Darius Rucker from Hootie and the Blowfish by two white kids at the airport. Unfortunately, Hootie jokes stopped being funny by approximately the fall of 1998, around the time that this album came out. Which is too bad, because Fairweather Johnson is still a very funny pop-culture reference for those of us of a certain age.
3. The opening sequence of Jerry Maguire, in which Jerry has a mental breakdown and pens the memo — sorry, mission statement — that gets him fired, is possibly the most unbearably earnest part of the whole movie, which is saying something. Things that Tom Cruise says during the first 10 minutes of Jerry Maguire include: “Who had I become?” “Suddenly, I was my father’s son again.” “It was the me I wanted to be.” It’s about as Cameron Crowe as you can get.
4. Jerry’s mission statement, which is called “The Things We Think And Do Not Say,” also ranks among 1996’s most underrated emo albums.
5. The mission statement in Jerry Maguire was partly inspired by a memo written in 1991 by Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was then the head of Disney. The memo, which was subsequently leaked to the media, decried the blockbuster mentality that had already taken hold of the film industry in the early ’90s. Disney, Katzenberg writes, was a company that once aspired to “singles and doubles,” meaning smaller films produced relatively cheaply that were geared toward storytelling rather than big stars and special effects. This echoes the “less is more” ethos of Jerry’s mission statement. But Katzenberg wasn’t fired for writing his memo — he stayed at Disney another three years before founding DreamWorks with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen.
6. Jerry Maguire was one of the first post-O.J. sports movies, in that it directly addresses the “loss of innocence” vibe that permeated the world of professional sports in the ’90s. It’s also a post-Deion movie — as in Deion Sanders, who makes a brief appearance during the climactic game between the Cardinals and Cowboys. In the ’90s, Sanders was a flashpoint in an ongoing conversation about the agency of professional athletes: Not only did Deion get paid, he let you know how much he got paid, and he did it with maximum brashness. Twenty-one years later, the view of flamboyant athletes is generally positive, at least among younger generations, who tend to dismiss “shut up and play!” types as stodgy, anachronistic, and, in some cases, even racist. But in 1996, the establishment media still reinforced the idea that Sanders and his ilk were somehow soiling the game with their antics. This is also the stance taken by Jerry Maguire. Crowe at one point actually has Cruise tell Gooding, “Just shut up — play the game!” This aspect of Jerry Maguire has also not aged well.
7. Here’s another thing in Jerry Maguire that contemporary audiences might not fully appreciate: The movie ends with an emotional Rod Tidwell conducting an interview with a sycophantic interviewer named Roy Firestone. This character is played by real-life sycophantic interviewer Roy Firestone, who functioned as a sort of Barbara Walters for the sports world in the ’80s and ’90s. Firestone’s most recent notoriety came with the release of 2016’s O.J.: Made In America, which includes a deeply unflattering clip of Firestone interviewing O.J. Simpson about accusations that he battered his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, two years before she was murdered. In the clip, Firestone appears to bend over backward to assist Simpson in dismissing the (accurate) story. “Given the horrible events to come, I wish I had known more, questioned more, and I fault myself for that. I still do to this day,” Firestone admitted last year.
8. A pivotal plot point in Jerry Maguire concerns hotshot college quarterback Frank “Cush” Cushman, played by Jerry O’Connell, who dumps Jerry as his agent on the eve of being picked first in the NFL draft. The No. 1 pick at the actual NFL Draft in 1996 was Tidwell-esque wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson by the New York Jets. He played for 11 seasons on four different teams, and later was eliminated in the first week on Dancing with the Stars.
9. A quarterback wasn’t chosen that year until the second round, when the St. Louis Rams picked future journeyman Tony Banks. In 2010, a Sports Illustrated story alleged that a sports agent paid Banks several hundreds of dollars per month while Banks was a student at Michigan State. For the record: Jerry Maguire never offered Cush anything more valuable than a bear hug.
10. Rod Tidwell’s stat line from the season before the season depicted in Jerry Maguire was 110 catches for 1,550 yards. Presumably this would’ve occurred in 1995, a year in which real-life Arizona Cardinals fullback Larry Centers set a team record (since broken) with a relatively meager 101 receptions.
11. Jerry Maguire opened the same weekend in December of 1996 as Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks!, which at the time — and this could be my faulty memory but I think it’s true — was the movie that most people expected to be the bigger hit. While I waited a few weeks to see Jerry Maguire, I saw Mars Attacks! opening weekend. In ’96, Burton was one of my favorite directors — his run from 1985’s Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure to 1994’s Ed Wood is still unimpeachable. But Mars Attacks! marked the point when the great, early Tim Burton became the mediocre Tim Burton of the last few decades. Jerry Maguire, meanwhile, was a major comeback for Cameron Crowe, whose career had been set adrift in the wake of 1992’s Singles. Jerry Maguire remains, by far, the biggest hit of Crowe’s career, and it gave him the juice to make arguably his best and most personal film, 2000’s Almost Famous. After that, Crowe made 2001’s bonkers Vanilla Sky, technically his second highest grosser, though it heralded the start of a trainwreck-y creative tailspin that Crowe has yet to pull out from. Also in 2001, Burton put out Planet of the Apes, his most commercially successful film since 1989’s Batman.
12. What I’m saying is that Cameron Crowe stole Tim Burton’s mojo in 1996 and Tim Burton stole it back five years later.
13. By the way, in Almost Famous, the Russell Hammond character (played by Billy Crudup) is based partly on Glenn Frey, whom Crowe met in the early ’70s when he was a teenaged rock critic profiling the Eagles for Rolling Stone. For Jerry Maguire, Crowe cast Frey as Arizona Cardinals general manager Dennis Wilburn. So, in a way, Almost Famous is a prequel about how Glenn Frey ended up in Jerry Maguire.
14. The one thing I’ll say about Jonathan Lipnicki: The part where he kisses Tom Cruise on the cheek probably made me roll my eyes at 19. But at 39, it totally choked me up. This is why you should never have kids. It crushes your heart into the softest and most malleable hamburger.
15. How did we get this far without talking about Tom Cruise? It’s impossible to imagine Jerry Maguire without him. It’s probably his best performance, with the possible exception of Frank TJ Mackey in Magnolia. Jerry Maguire is definitely the most Tom Cruise Tom Cruise movie there is. He’s never been fetishized as an object of desire more in any other movie — not even Top Gun, in which Tony Scott oiled Cruise up and stood him next to Kelly McGillis amid sultry, flowing sheets and Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away.” In Jerry Maguire, the audience is invited to view Cruise through the eyes of his love interest, Dorothy Boyd (Renee Zellweger), who acts as a proxy for the typical person, woman or man, who desired Tom Cruise in 1996. When the couple shares a romantic moment on Boyd’s porch after their first date, Crowe films the scene from Zellweger’s perspective, capturing her every pleasurable sigh as Cruise kisses her neck and shoulders. In the bedroom, again, we’re invited to identify with Dorothy — when she walks out of the bathroom and sees Jerry standing with a come hither look, Crowe shows Zellweger’s nervousness, excitement, and above all disbelief that she’s about to make it with Tom freaking Cruise.
16. Jerry Maguire might be impossible to imagine without Cruise, but let’s try anyway. According to the making-of documentary that’s included with the Blu-ray release, Cruise wasn’t available to read with Cuba Gooding, Jr. when he first met with Crowe. So Crowe invited another iconic actor to play Jerry Maguire against Gooding: Robin Williams. While Williams was never considered for the role, Crowe surrounded him and Gooding with an A-list cast for the reading: Mira Sorvino read as Dorothy Boyd, Owen Wilson played Maguire’s rival agent Bob Sugar, and Luke Wilson was Cush. Who wouldn’t be interested in seeing this bizarro world Jerry Maguire? Just imagine Robin-as-Jerry saying “Show me the money!” in a gay John Wayne voice!
17. Let’s not forget that Cruise’s other love interest in Jerry Maguire is Kelly Preston, who married John Travolta in 1991. Has anyone pretended to have sex with more famous scientologists than Kelly Preston?
18. Back to Cruise: 1996 might have very well been his peak as a movie star. Along with Jerry Maguire, which garnered his second Best Actor nomination, Cruise also made the first installment of his signature action franchise, Mission: Impossible, that summer. In the fall of ’96, Cruise left for England to make one of the most interesting films of his career, Eyes Wide Shut, with Stanley Kubrick. Action star, rom-com leading man, prestige movie actor: Cruise had it all that year.
19. Looking back, it’s clear that Cruise made a choice to become a star of action movies, and not romantic comedies, from 1996 onward. In spite of the popularity of Jerry Maguire, Cruise never starred in a pure romantic comedy ever again. (Any arguments for 2010’s Knight and Day being a romantic comedy will be disregarded.)
20. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen Jerry Maguire. I’m guessing that my most recent re-watch makes it at least four times. Every time I’ve seen Jerry Maguire, the ending never sits right. Are we really supposed to buy that Jerry Maguire has suddenly realized that he’s truly in love with Dorothy? Because the rest of the movie does a good job of suggesting that he’s not capable of loving her. In fact, the “You complete me” scene seems more like an indication of Jerry’s central character flaw — he can’t be alone — than a plausible reversal of ingrained behavior. And Dorothy’s unthinking acceptance of Jerry’s groveling (“You had me at hello”) shows that she’s not over enabling him.
21. It now occurs to me that Crowe might have intentionally ended Jerry Maguire in a way that’s only superficially happy. Notice the song playing over the closing credits: It’s Bob Dylan’s “Shelter From The Storm,” a haunting ballad in which Dylan tells the story of his marriage from first meeting to bitter end. The first five verses beautifully describe what it’s like to find your soul mate. (“Try imaging a place where it’s always safe and warm.”) Crowe cuts to a different song before Dylan gets to the sixth verse, which echoes the third act of Jerry Maguire before the phony happy ending: “Now there’s a wall between us, somethin’ there’s been lost /I took too much for granted, I got my signals crossed.” Similarly, Crowe opted to end his film before the story took a dark turn.
22. It’s also possible that the ending is just bad.