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The Butterfly Effect
2004 - R - 113 Mins.
Director: Eric Bress, J. Mackye Gruber
Producer: J.C. Spink
Written By: Eric Bress, J. Mackye Gruber
Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Amy Smart, Eldon Henson, Eric Stoltz
Review by: Harrison Cheung

Made you blink!
Named after a tenet of chaos theory (not Ashton Kutcher’s eye lashes), ‘The Butterfly Effect’ has all the ingredients and potential of a modern day sci-fi horror mindf*ck. The Chinese saying goes, “When a Butterfly Flaps its Wings...” The modern usage of this Chinese maxim is that even the movement of a butterfly’s wings can change events, the weather, or even history, in a chain reaction that has greater impact the further back you go.

The Butterfly Effect (the tenet, not the movie) has been portrayed in time-travel movies and television before. ‘Star Trek’ or ‘Jurassic Park?’ Or the episode of The Simpsons’ when Homer wreaks havoc with his time-traveling toaster and bashes a butterfly in the distant past only to return to a world where his family have reptilian tongues.

This movie is like a violent update of the 1980 cult movie ‘Somewhere in Time’ which starred Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. Unlike that romantic, turn-of-the-last-century tear-jerker of a time travel movie, ‘The Butterfly Effect’ plays the what-if game with numerous nasty themes like child abuse, violence, prison rape, etc… because Kutcher’s character gets to replay parts of his life with or without a past trauma to see how his future unfolds in various alternate versions. It’s like ‘Somewhere in Time’ meets ‘Final Destination’ – a stylish sci-fi-horror story about cheating fate.

It’s a great premise – as many sci-fi movies can attest – but ‘The Butterfly Effect’ suffers from confused direction and editing with gratuitous amounts of violence. Add to that a weak cast and you’re left with some blatant scenes of a shirtless Ashton Kutcher pushing himbo sex appeal and his earnest ‘furrowed brow’ acting method. Oh, you also get to see Kutcher with a beard! The movie feels fractured – I’m sure that’s intentional but I wonder why the movie has two first-time directors – might there have been some chaos on the set? The first time writer/director team only has one other credit to their name – writing ‘Final Destination: 2’ - which was far inferior to its X-Files-like predecessor.

Kutcher plays Evan, a young man with a troubled past. However, he finds he has the power to change his present by going back in time and revisiting key events in his childhood and thereby altering his history. When he returns to present time, he finds his life distorted – though never to his liking - so he goes back again and again to try to make things right. So far so good, but the movie vacillates between attempting a time-travel morality play and just being a series of related scenes like various auditions for the actors.

‘The Butterfly Effect’ is clearly a star-making vehicle for former model Kutcher with the same hopes and ambitions of a teen horror hit like ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ with the cult cool of a ‘Donnie Darko.’ Hey, the guy knows that ‘That 70s Show’ isn’t going to be on forever. But switching gears from his goofball comedies like ‘Dude, Where’s My Car?’ or ‘Just Married’ doesn’t work unless he surrounds himself with top-notch talent. Playing Kutcher’s girlfriend in various versions of his future, former model Amy Smart gets to play dress-up, from skank drug addict ho to Miss Teen USA, but her acting skills are strictly by the wardrobe. The rest of the mostly unknown cast adds to the movie’s clumsy, undercooked feel. There’s a big difference between an indie film and B-movie green.

A worthy video rental, ‘The Butterfly Effect’ will undoubtedly be a hit with the tween set anxious to see Kutcher shirtless but serious sci-fi horror fans looking for oooh or ahhh cleverness will feel punk’d.
Movie Guru Rating
A train wreck.  So bad some may find it unintentionally entertaining.
  1 out of 5 stars

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