While The Butterfly Effect is never destined to be a classic of the genre

The Butterfly Effect does have
some entertaining aspects

The Butterfly Effect

I’ve always enjoyed a good time travel story; the ability to go back in time holds a certain fascination. I remember a short story by the great Ray Bradbury where the most insignificant change in the past rippled through time to have disastrous consequences in the present. One of the most recent in this strange genre is the Butterfly Effect. While some time travel flicks all but ignore the inherent paradoxes of moving through time this story focuses completely on the premise of the small change ripple.

Evan (Ashton Kutcher) is a psych grad student. He had a difficult childhood full of violent outbursts and rather bizarre drawings. While in therapy his doctor suggests that he keep a journal to help him sort out his quagmire of emotions. Part of Evan’s problems is his youthful concern for the welfare of his friends Kayleigh (Amy Smart) and her brother Tommy (William Lee Scott), victims of an abusive father (Eric Stoltz). Adult Evan discovers that he can travel back in time by reading his journal entries providing a chance to apply twenty-twenty hindsight to correct the mistakes of the past. Of course the aforementioned ripple effect hits and each trip back only makes matters worse. Evan finds that each trip only seems to compound the problems; while well intentioned his actions can never bring the desired results.

There is no explanation offered for Evan’s abilities, it is just presented fairly mater of fact as part of the universe of The Butterfly Effect. While that is okay and there are much better films that take the same direction here it seems to leave a void in becoming involved with the story line. By the very nature of this story The Butterfly Effect is presented in an episodic fashion. Like the character of Evan the audience is aware of each of the changing time lines and there was a certain degree of entertainment in keeping it all straight. Kayleigh alternates between a suicide to Evan’s lover, her brother turns into a homicidal maniac as time and reality are in a state of constant flux. The story treads the thin line of the absurd and unfortunately slips over more than once. This may have made a fairly good Twilight Zone episode but there is premise here is not enough to hold for a feature length flick. By the end I found disconnected from the characters in all their incarnations. Sure, the situation of the children in the original time line invokes sympathy but it rarely carried over to their multiple adult selves. Its alright to create a universe for a film of this nature but there has to be some consistency to ground the audience, this was unfortunately lacking here.

There comes a time in a young actor’s career that he must decide what direction his future will take. For Ashton Kutcher he is trying to distance himself from the roles that helped to make him a well known name, specifically, the good natured stoner. This is a good decision since there will rapidly come a time when such roles will fail him. Here, he bit off a little too much more than he could handle. The story calls for such radical changes in situations and personalities that it would have served the audience better to go with a more seasoned actor. Amy Smart is another case of excellent potential that is not fulfilled here. Her various portrayals of Kayleigh are delegated to little more than window dressing in too many scenes. Instead of being given any scenes with depth she winds up in one stereotypical role after another. Eric Stoltz plays the evil pedophilic father a bit too over the top. It is almost as if he is giving his impression of how Gary Oldman would interpret the presentation. The Butterfly Effect suffers from the current trend of casting for name recognition rather than providing a good fit for the roles.

The Butterfly Effect was directed by the team of Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber, being the first time at the helm for Bress and second time for Mackye. Their partnership is young enough that apparent conflicts in style seem to manifest in the final cut of The Butterfly Effect. There is a prevalent feeling of discontinuity that pervades the flick that prevents the audience from connecting emotionally with the characters. True, the discontinuity is inherent in the story but there is little in the way of foundation upon which to build. Their best known previous opus was Final Destination 2; a sequel to gory teenagers must die flick. To their credit they are moving away from the purely sensational to a work with an interesting premise. I felt that if this story was presented as a dark comedy instead of a Sci-Fi drama it could have worked better. Most of the cast have excellent credentials in comedy and this could have provided a better vehicle for telling the tale. The montages that depict the change in time line was too much of the standard Hollywood swirling camera effects, can’t someone come up with a better way yet?

There is one thing that can be said about New Line Cinema, they provide some of the best presentations of DVDs around. The Butterfly Effect is part of their innovative Infini-Film series, providing extensive extra content and hyperlinks accessible throughout The Butterfly Effect. The anamorphic 1.85:1 was defect free and presented excellent color balance. The audio is well done, presented in Dolby 5.1 EX giving the audience a true surround experience. The extras are better than most discs sport today. There was a rather mundane commentary by the directors and the usual deleted scene section. One of the featurettes was a look at the quantum physics of the butterfly effect and the allure of time travel. For the most part the extras where well worth the viewing and generally well thought out. There is also a script to scene section, a featurette about the creative process and one on the creation of the visual effects. In all The Butterfly Effect is an engaging flick for a Saturday afternoon while sharing some beer and pizza with friends. While never destined to be a classic of the genre, The Butterfly Effect does have some entertaining aspects.

Review by Doug MacLean of hometheaterinfo.com

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