Four years ago, Spanish sensation Alejandro Amenábar (The Others, Thesis) directed a hazy film that lumped science-fiction, incoherent dream sequences, and shallow notions about beauty around a arrogant lead character. Tom Cruise took an instant interest. He now stars in Cameron Crowe's American remake. With pitch-perfect pop successes like Jerry McGuire and Almost Famous under his belt, one would think that Crowe could fine-tune such dissonant source material. Yet he films Vanilla Sky with scene-by-scene reverence for Open Your Eyes, its Castillian predecessor.
Penélope Cruz even reprises her original role, although this time around the English-language line readings further strain her slim actorly resources. The initial plot is pure tabloid: Cruise abandons his psychotic girlfriend (Diaz) for Cruz. The jilted ex then savagely disfigures him and takes her own life in the process. The rest of the movie deals with Cruise's disfigured playboy trying to come to grips with reality, primarily by shifting from dream to waking in increasingly uninteresting and difficult-to-follow ways. A half-baked sci-fi denouement trumps the muck that preceded it, plunging Vanilla Sky to the ground and securing its status as one of the year's biggest disappointments.