The Butterfly Effect
Starring:
Ashton Kutcher, Amy Smart, Elden Henson, Logan Lerman, Eric Stoltz, Cameron Bright
Directed By :
Eric Bress & J. Mackye Gruber
Grade
B

Synopsis: Evan Treborn (Kutcher) doesn't have the best life. A lot of it stems from his childhood. His Mom worked multiple jobs to support their family after his Dad got sent to the Asylum. She didn't have much time to watch him, and kids can get in a lot of trouble in a small town. The Butterfly Effect follows Evan and his group of childhood friends through their lives as Evan tries to figure out exactly where they all got so screwed up. The problem is that he's had memory blackouts ever since he was little. Now that he's in college, he's looking back at his old journals to try and fill in the blank spots in his memory…and he discovers that for him time is just a state of mind. He now has the opportunity to try and change everything bad that happened. But what will the effects of his efforts be?

Who Will This Appeal To?: I can't say this will appeal to Ashton fans, as he's really only done comedy before, and this is mostly drama. So take your chances. For those who hate Kutcher: get over it or move on. He does a capable turn in this film, but if you can't see past the hype, save yourself the time and money and skip the movie. In general, this will appeal to fans of Sci-Fi with a dramatic bent.

Evaluation: From the writing/directing team that brought you Final Destination 2. Not a stunning credit to the potential of this movie, yet it exceeds their previous efforts. Between the synopsis and any previews you might've seen, you should have an idea of what the movie's like. It flows mostly back and forth between Evan at age 8, 13, and about 21. The movie is well written enough that there's little more I could reveal about the plot without spoiling the film. The story is not exactly predictable, which is more than I can say for most 'young Hollywood star vehicles.' I'll tell you that the childhood of Evan and his friends was pretty horrific. There are some sequences that are hard to watch. This is a brutal, violent, explicit movie. Leave the kids home.

Kutcher does a capable turn in a dramatic role. He does bring a bit of a stigma to the role, and some bits where he's stressed and unbalanced from the events in the movie may actually be unintentionally funny for some people, perhaps because of Kutcher's comedic bent. But the acting is really pretty excellent, particularly Amy Smart in the role of Evan's childhood sweetheart. The whole impetus for the movie is that Evan is trying to 'fix' her childhood (more than his) since he doesn't really remember how jacked up his was…it's his friends that have really suffered from their upbringing. Although the chemistry between Smart and Kutcher is questionable, they sell the relationship enough for the audience to believe the story…and that's all I'll say about that.

The directing is pretty capable as well, shocking you when it should, and playing up the time travel sequences pretty well. I could've done with a more humanitarian approach to some of the dramatic scenes, but not everyone can get to your emotions like Spielberg. The supporting cast does a good job of selling the different scenes as reality shifts around Evan. The time travel aspect itself is wisely left vague. There is no complicated machine, and the exact mechanics of the travel are pretty much left at 'rare mental abilities.' It's handled somewhat similarly to Somewhere in Time, where time as viewed more as a state of mind that some people can view differently. To say more would spoil the story.

A note on 'the butterfly effect'. Some people seem to think they have an understanding of chaos theory. To clarify: the butterfly effect does not imply that little events have huge consequences. It simply states that the consequences for a small event are unpredictable, chaotic if you will. They could have huge and far-reaching ramifications, or maybe not. There's no way to know. Therein lays the danger. Think you made a mistake? Maybe not. It could've gone a lot worse, you never know. The time travel itself is done pretty well. There are many theories on if changing your past is possible and what effects it would have on the future. There are lots of paradoxes involved. No one theory seems much better than the others. The important point is that the way it's handled in this film is internally consistent, something many movies fail to be. It's sci-fi, it doesn't have to be hyper-realistic; you just have to establish rules and stick to them. As overrated as I think The Sixth Sense is, there's a special feature where Shyamalan explains this rule of writing and how he applied it to his film. It's a feature every Hollywood screenwriter should watch.

Final Verdict: Well acted, well written, well directed, etc. This movie probably won't blow anyone's socks off with any of those elements, but it's certainly better than a lot of other movies out there, and a lot better than you might think it would be. Not a brain-busting movie, but good for those who enjoy some thought-provoking drama.

It's All in the Details: Check out Ethan Suplee as Evan's sex-fiend goth roommate Thumper. A fine supporting role from the man known primarily for his cameos in 3 of Kevin Smith's films. This has led to some features in more prominent recent films such as Remember the Titans, Blow, John Q, Evolution, and Cold Mountain. He's coming up!

- - Jeff Light

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