Vanilla Sky (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

There is really no sense in my writing any detailed reflections on Vanilla Sky, since it is essentially the same movie as Abre los Ojos, and I can't tell you much about it without spoiling the whole thing. And the movie is not worth seeing if the great secret is spoiled. Check out the earlier review for various non-spoiler details.


Penelope Cruz shows her breasts briefly in a sex scene
It is a good movie, made by one of the best directors, Cameron Crowe. Although he is operating outside of his normal environment here (it's a psychological sci-fi, in the manner of Twilight Zone), he does create characters which struggle to maintain or regain their humanity under difficult conditions. The main players all manage to breathe life into their characters. It took in $100 million at the box office, and received some good reviews, although other reviewers called it confusing and pretentious.

For the record, I think it is confusing in many ways. However, it intends to be confusing in the moment. That creates the mystery. I felt that the final explanation for the confusion was satisfactory. I wouldn't call the film pretentious, exactly, but it does flirt with "arty", and I am frankly quite surprised by the $100 million box office. I think a lot of those people must have come out of the theater puzzled, because it is not a typical mainstream movie, and it is nowhere near so down-to-earth as Crowe's other movies.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Commentary by director Cameron Crowe and composer Nancy Wilson, featuring a conversation with Tom Cruise

  • Theatrical trailer(s), TV spot(s)

  • Two documentaries

  • "Prelude To A Dream" an introduction

  • "Hitting It Hard" behind-the-scenes look

  • Gag reel

  • An interview with Paul McCartney

  • Music video "Afrika Shox" by Leftfield/ Afrika Bambaataa

  • Photo gallery

  • Widescreen anamorphic format. 1.85:1

What I don't understand is why Crowe thought this remake was necessary. In essence, all he did was to translate the film from the original Spanish language and references into a story set in New York and played out in English. Penelope Cruz is in both versions in the same role.  Crowe's movie is no better than the original. In some ways I like the original better, even though my English is better than my Spanish, but that's a hard call to make because I already knew the ending when I saw the remake, and the surprise ending is a key element to enjoying both movies. Stripped of that secret, the movie's mysteries don't really seem very mysterious at all, so all of that pleasurable sense of puzzlement and wonder is lost. Let us be generous and say they are both terrific movies.

So why did Crowe spend a couple years of his life and 68 million dollars simply translating some other guy's movie into English?  

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 3/4, 3/5

  • The movie was less popular in England. General UK consensus: two stars. Daily Mail 2/10, Daily Telegraph 5/10, Independent 2/10,The Guardian 4/10, The Times 5/10, Evening Standard 5/10, The Express 6/10, The Mirror 8/10, BBC 4/5

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 7.0/10, Guardian voters 5.7/10
  • with their dollars: a hit ($100 million) in the USA, $13 million in the UK. Budget: $68 million.


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+.

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