Vanilla Sky

This image gives away about 70% of the movie...

Review written by: Joe Yang

Vanilla Sky is not a foreign film, but it is a remake of Open Your Eyes (Abre los Ojos) , which I wrote about earlier. In the review of Alejandro Amenabar's original, I promised to post my reaction to Cameron Crowe's version, so here it is.

Synopsis: David Ames (Tom Cruise) is a wealthy, charming magazine mogul who inherited the business from his late father. In the midst of his playboy lifestyle, he keeps his casual girlfriend Julia (Cameron Diaz) at arm's length while occasionally screwing her.

At his birthday party, David meets Sofia (Penelope Cruz, who reprises her role from Open your Eyes) and is drawn to her. Staying at Sofia's apartment that very same night, the two have a fun time chatting and flirting, whereupon David realizes he really wants to connect with her.

Although he ends up sleeping over at her place, nothing dirty happens.

The next morning while leaving Sofia's apartment, David discovers Julia waiting for him. She offers him a ride, which he dumbly accepts.

Julia flips out, there's a horrible car accident, David's face becomes disfigured, things turn all weird, he wonders if he's dreaming, blah blah blah.

The story's entire sequence of events unfolds almost exactly as it did in Open your Eyes, with little deviation.

Remarks: And by not deviating too much from the central theme and sequence of events of Open Your Eyes, Vanilla Sky, by default, turns out to be a decent movie.

But as a remake, it also proves that a big budget, A-list Hollywood actors, and replacing Madrid with New York City will not make a previously successful idea for a film any better.

If you've seen both films, you'll note that nothing new is added to Cameron Crowe's copy. And to my disappointment, Vanilla Sky actually diminishes the psychological edge of its predecessor by blatantly spelling out all of the important themes and messages.

As a result, it comes across as a movie that's too afraid of losing its audience and may as well have been titled Open your Eyes: For Dummies.

Other Pet Peeves

The dialog in Vanilla Sky tries too hard to be hip and quirky, and Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz seem awkward when delivering their lines. The writing just isn't conducive to their personalities, given the dramas they've both previously starred in.

Cruise tries going for some Jerry Maguire moments, but they all fall flat and are uncomfortable to watch.

Although Crowe indeed has a knack for delivering good humor (as evidenced in one of his previous films, Singles), his specific brand of humor doesn't go well with Vanilla Sky's subject matter. The attempts at being cute amount to the cinematic equivalent of farting in an art museum.

The incessant use of pop music: Every few minutes the playlist from any high school prom would kick in. Instead of creating a feeling of Generation X (or Y?) coolness, it merely succeeds in achieving all the rhythmic grooviness of your neighbor's car alarm going off at 3:00 am.

Tom Cruise's yelling: Every couple of scenes (usually between intrusive pop songs) Tom Cruise's character would lose his shirt then find something to yell about. He's either screaming in anguish, terror, frustration, or out of boredom.

But no matter. After a while, all screaming sounds like Mariah Carey, and it just needs to stop.

I won't elaborate any more on this pre-Oprah behavior, only I wished that the filmmakers had remembered that the film they remade was called Open Your Eyes, not Open Your Mouth.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Vanilla Sky was a film that simply did not need to be made. Alejandro Amenabar's original was solid, engaging, and even though it was in a different language, addressed subject matter and messages that are universal.

Overall, the biggest flaw in Vanilla Sky was that it took the condescending route and underestimated the ability of its audience to grasp the twists and turns of the plot. The original, however, did not.

Open Your Eyes, no doubt, was a confusing film. But it forced you to think. When filmmakers have the guts to raise the bar and challenge their audience, the majority of viewers will meet their expectations and probably become fans.

And fans are like girlfriends (or boyfriends, if you're a girl reading this). They like being challenged.

The good ones do, anyway...

(2 1/2 stars out of 4)

Netflix, Inc.

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