Vanilla Sky

Yes, even a movie with Penelope Cruz naked can still suck

What the hell happened to Tom Cruise?  He starts off with Risky Business and Top Gun, freefalls through Cocktail and Days of Thunder, and plummets into Mission Impossible(s), Eyes Wide Shut, and now this. If he’s going to continue, he needs to stop appearing with real actors.

The movie opens with a dream sequence in which Cruise, portraying rich, handsome, smiling David Aames, cruises through an empty New York City in a classic Ferrari. This opening scene turns out to be the beginning of a nightmare. A two hour fifteen minute nightmare, in fact.

Aames wakes up and proceeds with his real life, which seems to mostly involve grinning at the camera. Hopping into his classic Mustang (the Ferrari never appears again; I suppose it was chosen for the opening shot so the producer–some guy named “Tom Cruise”–could get the studio to pick up the tab for it), he picks up his bestest buddy Brian (Jason Lee) and pulls into the path of an oncoming semi. The movie takes a heartbreaking turn here as both of them survive.

We soon realize Aames is a spoiled jerkoff who, through the hard work of being born, inherited 51% of his dad’s publishing empire. His board of directors, a group of elderly Republicans who seem to think the head of a company should actually be capable of running it, is allegedly trying to oust him. Not one to take this lying down, Aames immediately throws a party.

Bestest Buddy Brian arrives with new girlfriend Sofia (Penelope Cruz, no relation to Tom) in tow. He confides that this girl is special, perhaps the one he has sought his whole life. Aames immediately sets about seducing her, right in front of Brian and Aames’s own girlfriend, Julie Gianni, named after the former mayor of New York.

At about this point, the editor dropped all the pieces of this film and reassembled them in random order.

Aames is now in prison, wearing a mask (though no doubt grinning beneath it). Actual movie actor Kurt Russell portrays Aames’s psychiatrist, who informs us Aames has been charged with murder. (It is not till the end, in a surprising twist, that we discover the victim: a story idea that could actually have made a good movie.)

Back and forth we jump. Aames spends the night with Sofia, but doesn’t have actual human sex with her, but on his way out meets his real girlfriend, Julie, with whom he does decide to have sex, only she drives their car off a bridge in a desperate attempt to kill him and to get herself out of the film. Tragically, Aames survives yet again.

Aames spends the next three and a half weeks in a coma, about half the subjective time it takes to watch this movie. He awakens to find his face badly disfigured by the wreck. Faced (haha) with the shallow meaning of his existence, he sets about righting his life by getting drunk a lot and abusing his friends. In one compelling sequence, the disfigured Aames screams at his plastic surgeons until they agree to give him the Acme Miracle Mask (FDA approval pending) which will completely heal his face simply by putting it on (much the same way that Preparation H relieves rectal itch).

The movie continues to bounce around a lot. The next scene of any import is when Aames removes the mask and finds his face completely restored, and his new girlfriend Sofia agrees to sleep with him so we get to see Penelope Cruz naked. Vanilla Sky does take one hilarious turn when we see Aames’s police mug shot and discover Tom Cruise is really six feet tall. (If Nicole Kidman watched this she probably ruptured something laughing.)

Eventually, we discover the truth: Aames committed suicide a century and a half earlier, after first agreeing to have his body frozen. No cheapskate when it comes to his own gratification, Aames opted for the Lucid Dream option, so his time in the freezer would not pass instantaneously, but rather in a long, orgasmic dream in which he continues to see himself as a young, handsome, rich, completely worthless human being. Unfortunately, something has gone horribly wrong and his dream has turned into a nightmare where he is forced to share the screen with people who can act.

Aames, it turns out, needs “Technical Support” (yes, really). After his 150 year hold-time, Aames is fixed (somehow) and now must choose between his continued Matrix/Star Trek/Futurama wet-dream state, or take his chances and be awakened in the real world. Aames undergoes Instant Character Development and, for no discernible reason, selects the latter by jumping off a skyscraper, sadly not taking director Cameron Crowe with him.

Well, that’s why I have Netflix: so I don’t waste actual money on movies like these. A definite four-vacuumer.

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