The Butterfly Effect (2004)
(Release Date: January 23, 2004)

1/2

Interesting if uneven and somewhat lacking Time-Travel Thriller.

J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic!


I was every bit as surprised as you are! An Ashton Kutcher Movie I actually want to see! The guy's not exactly my "Box Office Draw!" And let's face it... the words "Executive Producer: Ashton Kutcher" don't inspire the confidence that "This stretch Of Highway Adopted by the Knights of Columbus" does. I don't love him, don't hate him. But ads for The Butterfly Effect grabbed me like a robotic "turn your head and cough" arm!

Was it worth it? Well, almost. The Butterfly Effect is an interesting concept with some above average execution, but it also resorts to a bit too much shock value and incongruous Gregory Benford-like Deus Ex Machina to truly be a "great" film. This might not be the "great" film that the audience (or Kutcher himself) desired to elevate his career to the "serious side" and it much more resembles an episode of the UPN Revival of The Twilight Zone than it does an Herbert George Wells Masterpiece! Still, The Butterfly Effect does manage to never be boring and to succeed in at least being a lot of fun!


The concept of The Butterfly Effect revolves around the most insignificant events triggering massive results, like a Butterfly's wing-flutter causing a Hurricane halfway around the world. More appropriately Ray Bradbury's time travel story (which you may remember being spoofed in that Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episode) revolves around time traveling tourists accidentally stepping on a butterfly and in the process drastically changing the future. In the case of the film we meet Evan Treborn (Kutcher... sharing the role with both John Patrick Amedori and Logan Lerman because he can't pass for 8 years old anymore). Evan is a young man who, like his institutionalized Dad before him, has Memory Blackouts that he has to deal with. He also has to deal with having a hot mom (Melora Walters, not Demi gosh darned Moore), but that's neither here nor there plot-wise. In order to deal with these memory lapses (sometimes surrounding major events) Evan keeps copious notes in a journal about everything he's gone through before and after the incidents. After an eventful (and oft tragic childhood) Evan starts looking like an unkempt Kelso from That 70s Show and becomes a College Psyche Major. In his attempts to work through his Blackout Illness he discovers that his unique disability allows him to go back in time and relive those blacked-out moments, and Quantum Leap-like possibly right that which once went horribly, horribly wrong! (_8^(|) But, like Homer with his Magic Toaster, Evan more commonly leaves something to go wrong in the future, and nothing is left "well enough!"

What follows is Kutcher's attempts to fill in every blank and re-capture his utopian existence with his true love Kayleigh (the lovely and talented Amy Smart... usually). Like a cross between Billy Pilgrim and Tru Davies, Evan races back and forth throughout his own life, procuring his notebooks and re-reading them to (hopefully) fix things. Naturally, or else the movie would have been twenty minutes long (like this review), things continue to get worse and worse to the point that Evan has to throw the baby out with the bathwater. It's interesting to see him play the same part so differently so many times, and it's fascinating to see how Kayliegh has been effected by each and every channel change in this film!

While Kutcher's acting is better than expected, he does get a little melodramatic sometimes. It's not hard to separate him from his goofy characters in other movies, but it's not easy to just accept him as this character either. Amy Smart is very good as her different versions of Kayliegh, from radiant beauty and happiness to street trash and gutter-face. Ethan Suplee and Eric Stoltz are likewise well used in their small parts.

The real exception to greatness here lies in the script itself. While it's a fantastic idea, the concepts that form that idea are somewhat poorly expressed like the Bush Economic Plan, and there's a lot of suspension of disbelief required, like watching Terry McCauliffe on Meet the Press! Evan does a few things in his time traveling that truly make no sense. For example, he goes back at one point to face certain failure and wakes up to say "Well, that didn't work!" Other things he does seem to simply be to maintain the status quo even though it's the status quo you would think he's out to change! The entire concept of the disability that allows him to travel astrally and "leap into himself" leads to a certain chicken-and-the-egg logic. Does he have blackouts because he is going back in time to cause them, or is he able to go back in time because he's had these blackouts? Why have them at these particular times if it's just Random?

There are also a few cheesy lines that serve to explain things to the slow-poke audience that I'd as soon do without. Likewise where an effectively creepy moment has been written by Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber the whole thing is often ruined by first-time directors Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber as they resort to the shock value this film uses as an unneeded crutch! Too often the audience is startled by a camera-cut or a musical hit to remind them that they damned well better be scared, ladies and germs! The whole thing culminates in a somewhat contrived ending that doesn't fit with the established set up of the Treborn phenomenon, and I couldn't help thinking there was something missing, or something else should be happening! Is there a lesson here? It sure felt like they were trying to paste one on us. If so, what is it? Leave crappy enough alone? Don't bother traveling back in time without a machine? See Rock City?

All in all The Butterfly Effect is a good and fun movie, but it's not necessarily a great and logical movie. The special effects, when used, are interesting and cool, and the acting is fair enough. Three and One Half Stars out of Five for The Butterfly Effect! Since old Ashton wants to be taken seriously as an actor perhaps he should try starring opposite Bruce Willis in something major. Wait! What do you mean, "conflict of interest?"

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Some of which can transport you back in time when read aloud! I've done that, man!

The Butterfly Effect (2004) reviewed by J.C. Mašek III
who is solely responsible for his views
and for his desire to go back in time and attack the Mayor with Hummus!
He'd never see it coming!
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