By Herb Kane | December 22, 2001

CRITIC DOCTOR EXAMINES: Leonard Maltin & Todd Newton (“Hot Ticket” – Paramount Domestic Television), James Berardinelli (, Michæl Dequina (, Chris Hewitt (St Paul Pioneer Press), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), Colin Covert (Minneapolis Star Tribune), Richard Roeper (“Ebert & Roper and The Movies” – Buena Vista TV), and Marc Savlov (Austin Chronicle) ^ * * * * * (out of 5 stars)
Vanilla Sky is based on the 1997 film Open Your Eyes (Abre los ojos) by Alejandro Amenabar and Mateo Gil. I never saw the original film, but my taste buds were very pleased with Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla version.
The movie is about David Aames (Tom Cruise), a rich, good-looking, young New York City publishing executive who lives the dream life. He becomes bored with his sex buddy Julie Gianni (Cameron Diaz) and finds true love in Sofia Serrano (Penelope Cruz). Jealous Julie coaxes David into her car and purposely crashes it. She dies leaving David alive with a badly disfigured face. Did his dream life come to an end? The movie will open your eyes, but some critics are just plain blind!
Leonard Maltin said on his TV show “Hot Ticket” (Paramount Domestic Television), “I was really disappointed. The confusion led me nowhere. I didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.” Co-host, Todd Newton, added, “I got lost and the ending comes in and I thought – ok, now it’s all going to be pieced together for me. Nothing!”
You guys have vanilla pudding for brains! Indeed we go on a wild ride, but the ride reaches a clear destination. The story makes you think; and the various themes in Vanilla Sky ooze out with delight in spoken words like, “Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around” or “without the bitter, the sweet ain’t as sweet.” There is “something” to this movie and the “light” does shine at the end of the film.
James Berardinelli ( got it right: “‘Vanilla Sky’ answers all the questions it poses and wraps up most (if not all) of the dangling plot threads. However, while the explanations come in the final fifteen minutes, the most rewarding aspect of the film is the journey to that point – trying to outguess the script, enjoying the carefully constructed romance between David and Sofia.”
Michæl Dequina’s Vanilla Sky review on, complained there was no “spark” in the romance between David and Sophia and said director Cameron Crowe should have “cast a female lead with some slight grasp of the English language. Or charisma. Or charm. Or personality. Or on-screen chemistry with Cruise. Or beauty.” Or maybe, Michæl, you need to wear big thick eyeglasses!
Penelope Cruz is sexy in this film – in an innocent way. Though we do see Cruz and Cruise partially nude in one love scene, it doesn’t compare to a romantic moment on a couch. David and Sophie are having fun wrestling and laughing and in an instant, their lips edge close to each other. Sophie prevents the kiss by saying in sweet whisper, “We better watch out.” This is the hottest scene between them! No nudity required. You can’t accomplish this without chemistry, Michæl. Cruz is beautiful and David said it best, “Your smile is going to be the end of me.”
Chris Hewitt (St Paul Pioneer Press) said, “Crowe hasn’t thought out the motivations of the characters, most of whom don’t make sense. Is Diaz a psycho or a saint? Is Cruz kind or vapid?”
You need to get a grip on reality, Chris. Let’s see now – Julie (Diaz) purposely drives her car off a bridge to kill David. Uh, that sounds a bit psychotic to me. Sophie (Cruz) is stimulating (especially with David), imaginative (remember the caricature she drew of David?) and kind (she refrained from sex initially and accepted David’s deformed face). Where’s the confusion, Chris?
Some critics saw the film twice including Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times): “Now that I’ve seen it twice, I think I understand it, or maybe not.” Colin Covert (Minneapolis Star Tribune) said, “The film begs to be viewed more than once, if only to unravel the multiple layers of meaning that cocoon every scene.”
The movie is intended to confuse all the way up until the end. It is the clouds in Vanilla Sky that makes this film shine. You can imagine storylines going in other directions, but the film doesn’t leave you without answers, and the questions are fun to ponder.
I’m now eager to see the original film. I suspect the Vanilla version is sweeter. Richard Roeper (“Ebert & Roper and The Movies” – Buena Vista TV) said, “I saw the original and that sort of gave the acoustic version. This is the full-orchestrated version. Cameron Crowe does a wonderful job of lacing this all together.”
Marc Savlov (Austin Chronicle) summed the movie up best: “With plenty of big ideas lurking just out of sight behind John Toll’s lush, intentionally surrealistic cinematography, it’s a film that you can take home and chew over later, both abrasive in its loudness and reflective in its fleeting, feminine moments of silence. Well done.”
Vanilla Sky is a montage of muddled madness, yet a surreal story pointing us toward the simple realities of life. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that simple for many critics to enjoy – or understand.
To them I say, “Open your eyes!” ^ –CRITIC DOCTOR

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