The Butterfly Effect

"Weak"

The Butterfly Effect Review


In Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman's ingeniously idiosyncratic showbiz semi-farce "Adaptation" there is a running gag about a typically bogus Hollywood-thriller screenplay called "The 3," in which a preposterous, nonsensical twist ending reveals the three main characters to be different personalities in a schizophrenic's mind.

In this week's "The Butterfly Effect," a superficially chilling high-concept horror movie full of paradox-packed time-loop contortions, the entire plot depends on just such cursory twists, none of which stand up to much intellectual scrutiny.

Stoner-comedy staple Ashton Kutcher -- who, like a young Keanu Reeves, is hard to take seriously in any non-stoner role -- stars as Evan Treborn, a double-psychology major (snicker, snicker) working on an memory assimilation thesis inspired by blackouts he suffered as a child during several traumatic events.

In the first half of the movie, the shock-value-driven writing-directing team of Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber (scripters of "Final Destination 2") inflict on the audience each of these episodes from Evan's life, distastefully alluding to kiddie porn, barbequed pet dogs and a mailbox bomb that kills a young mother and -- just to make the incident as ghastly as possible -- her baby too.

When adult Evan is later shaken by the suicide of a childhood girlfriend (Amy Smart), he inadvertently discovers he can reorder the past by re-reading the journals he kept as part of his youthful psychotherapy. The memories induced thrust him back into the empty moments of his blackouts and allow him to change related events. His ability to reach from the present into his own body in the past (through space-warping shaky-cam effects) ends up being the cause of the blackouts in the first place.

But with each timeline alteration comes something unexpectedly terrible in the present, and soon he's tapping the journals from every missing moment of his childhood, looking for another chance to fiddle with history and try to set things right.

It's a viable concept with many Ray Bradbury-inspired possibilities, but Bress and Gruber obviously didn't examine their plot twists for plot holes. Some of the present-day horrors are far-fetched (in a rich frat-boy timeline he ends up in prison, awaiting trial for a first-offense killing when he could easily plead self-defense and make bail).

Some of the changes made in the past have ridiculously little effect in the future (an act of self-mutilation that would have sent the kid into much more serious therapy changes nothing in the future except giving Evan a pair of small physical scars). Others result in Evan's life changing drastically around him and involve a painful flood of new memories forming -- yet inexplicably his personality, psyche, and hairstyle always remain the same.

Some of this nonsense can be dismissed as inevitable incongruities intrinsic to the time-travel genre. But there's no consistency to the films internal logic -- a fact that is in evidence most blatantly when one of Evan's jumps results in new memories flooding into his mind from someone else's life -- not because of some strange twist of science fiction, but for the sake of narrative shorthand.

I could spend paragraphs pointing out gaffes in "The Butterfly Effect." But its dozens of elemental inconsistencies might have been easier to swallow if the film had actors of a higher caliber than these lightweight stars hired more for their demographic appeal (Kutcher hosts his own cruel practical jokes show on MTV) than their talent.

Kutcher does have a gift for playing dumb in comedies. His scene stealing in last month's "Cheaper by the Dozen" -- ironically as a talentless, self-serious actor -- is that movie's only reliable source of laughs. But he doesn't have the gravitas to get audiences in his corner as the hero of a wannabe-brain-twisting psychological sci-fi thriller. Even the film's better actors -- like Melora Walters ("Magnolia") as Evan's mom and Eric Stoltz as the girl's abusive pervert pop -- are poorly chosen for their roles.

All this adds up to an incontrovertible lack of substance and cohesion that -- not unlike the mock shocker in "Adaptation" -- obviously enthralled shallow studio executives and probably won't register with less demanding moviegoers. But it will drive to distraction anyone who expects not just twists, but smart twists.

For a far more daring and novel approach to a similar concept, rent 2001's eerie, oddball underground hit "Donnie Darko."



The Butterfly Effect

Facts and Figures

Run time: 113 mins

In Theaters: Friday 23rd January 2004

Box Office USA: $57.7M

Box Office Worldwide: $96.1M

Budget: $13M

Distributed by: New Line Cinema

Production compaines: FilmEngine, Katalyst Films, BenderSpink, Province of British Columbia Production Services Tax Credit, New Line Cinema

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 33%
Fresh: 55 Rotten: 113

IMDB: 7.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Evan Treborn, as Kayleigh Miller, as Tommy Miller, as Lenny Kagan, as Andrea Treborn, as George Miller, as Evan Treborn age 7, as Thumper, as Dr. Redfield, Kevin G. Schmidt as Lenny age 13, as Tommy age 13, as Jason Treborn, Irene Gorovaia as Kayleigh age 13, as Evan Treborn age 13, as Tommy age 7, Lorena Gale as Mrs. Boswell, Kendall Cross as Mrs. Kagan, John Tierney as Priest, Ted Friend as Anchor, John B. Lowe as Professor Carter, Camille Sullivan as Cricket, Tara Wilson as Heidi, Jesse Hutch as Spencer

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

At just 27 years old, Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan has an almost overwhelming set of...

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

Advertisement
The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.