December 24, 2001 12:00 PM

Tom Cruise, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Jason Lee

When Vanilla Sky appears on video, it could start a new drinking game similar to the old “Hi, Bob,” in which players swigged a beer every time anyone greeted Bob Newhart on TV’s Bob Newhart Show. In my proposed “Whoa, Tom” game, one would chug each time Cruise goes shirtless in the psychological thriller Sky. Better lay in a six-pack.

Sky aims for the heavens but falls short—and not just due to Cruise’s needless shirt-doffings. Director-writer Cameron Crowe’s listlessly faithful remake of Open Your Eyes, a 1997 Spanish film, is self-consciously trippy as it takes on the meaning of life. Cruise (acting with his usual strained intensity) is a promiscuous rich brat who falls for an aspiring dancer (Cruz, reprising her role from the Spanish version). Before true love can conquer, he’s badly scarred in a car crash involving a vengeful ex-bedmate (Diaz). Then things get really complicated. The final scenes prove affecting—maybe because they include glimpses of the World Trade Center towers—but Sky quickly drifts from memory like a wispy cloud. (R)

Bottom Line: Tom loses his shirt and our interest

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