By People Staff
December 16, 1996 12:00 PM

Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr., Renée Zellweger, Kelly Preston, Bonnie Hunt

This comedy has everything going for it, not least of which is Cruise’s most appealing performance since Risky Business. Cruise plays the title character, a sports agent who is essentially a glad-handing creep. But Maguire desperately wants to think that he is a nice guy. In the course of what he imagines to be a dark night of the soul, Maguire produces a “mission statement”—not a memo, he corrects colleagues—calling on his agency to stress care and friendship, not money, with clients. His directive shows all the moral vision of a peanut and accomplishes nothing more than getting him fired.

Cruise seems as terrifyingly driven as ever, but for once his energy dovetails with the part. He has also loosened up his ramrod posture—he looked like a piece of welding in Mission: Impossible—and let a few bubbles of silliness percolate into his iron-rich blood. The entire large cast, in fact, is delightful. The standouts are Gooding, as a mercurial but low-ranked wide receiver who stays on as Maguire’s only client, and Jonathan Lipnicki, an adorable 5-year-old who resembles a stocking-stuffer-sized Elton John and who plays the son of Maguire’s secretary.

Unfortunately this wonderful comedy, directed with a brisk, light touch by Cameron Crowe, halfway through turns into a run-of-the-mill sentimental drama. Maguire drifts into a serious relationship, then anguishes over the demands of love. Cruise starts doing that annoying trick he does with his eyes when he wants to convey big emotion. They get intensely shiny, like a lemur’s. Jerry Maguire turns out to be deep after all. But he was more fun as a cynic. (R)