- The Washington Times - Friday, December 14, 2001

"Vanilla Sky" looms as a murky misadventure for unsuspecting moviegoers who may not be familiar with the source material or all that thrilled by the spectacle of Tom Cruise making another elaborately masochistic bid for an Academy Award nomination.
Another remake, the movie reunites the star and Cameron Crowe, the writer-director of the hugely popular "Jerry Maguire" of five years ago. It is a duplication of "Open Your Eyes," a striking Spanish import of 1997.
The principal setting shifts from Madrid to Manhattan, but "Vanilla Sky" tracks the scenario of its prototype so closely that it offers few, if any, surprises for people who saw the original. Multitudes didn't in the United States, where "Eyes" was an intriguing art-house discovery the precocious second feature of the young director Alejandro Amenabar.
Not that the remake lacks a certain pictorial luster of its own. The cinematographer, two-time Oscar winner John Toll, may have access to some seductive new lenses that enhance the texture of flesh tones, which seem especially vivid and tactile in the early episodes. This makes it possible to mistake the movie at the outset for a lighthearted romantic caprice about hedonistic, glamourpuss characters played by Mr. Cruise and Cameron Diaz.
Mr. Cruise plays publishing tycoon David Aames, inheritor of an empire and a playboy who takes such pleasure in playing around that it would seem churlish to resent him.
Obviously, a downfall lurks. Miss Diaz plays its agent, a fashion model named Julia Gianni who becomes vindictive when her consort is attracted to Penelope Cruz as dancer Sofia Serrano.
Because Miss Cruz played the same role in "Open Your Eyes," her reprise in "Vanilla Sky" has a certain curiosity value for repeat viewers. Newcomers, however, can share fully in the other curiosity angle: peeping as Cruise & Cruz share love scenes that may have precipitated their off-screen liaison.
The entertaining portion of the show seems to conclude with the premature departure of troublemaking Julie, who inflicts calamity on herself and faithless David. Miss Diaz does make a couple of spectral returns, once in an interlude of simulated intercourse with Mr. Cruise and once while thrashing him.
When the plot shifts from sex and luxury punctuated by dream sequences to post-traumatic misery punctuated by science-fiction twists, "Vanilla Sky" degenerates into a bad trip without redeeming elements of weirdness and pathos.
The pivotal weakness is that Mr. Cruise remains poorly prepared to make a suffering, facially disfigured character a persuasive or sympathetic figure. He does his worst acting when Aames loses his good looks and descends into self-pitying despair. From time to time, the scars are concealed by a curiously molded mask.
Mr. Cruise, perceived as the injuring party in the breakup of his marriage to actress Nicole Kidman, appears to be soliciting soft shoulders to a grotesque extent in "Vanilla Sky."

* 1/2
TITLE: "Vanilla Sky"
RATING: R (Morbid thematic material involving disfigurement and mental aberration; occasional profanity, sexual candor and graphic violence; fleeting nudity)
CREDITS: Directed by Cameron Crowe. Screenplay by Mr. Crowe, based on the Spanish film "Open Your Eyes," written by Alejandro Amenabar and Mateo Gil. Cinematography by John Toll and production design by Catherine Hardwicke.
RUNNING TIME: 135 minutes

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