The Butterfly Effect

Hahahahahahahahah. What? You were serious? Oh.

Released in 2004, certified UK-15. Reviewed on 21 Apr 2004 by Scott Morris
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Legend would have it that the extent of Chaos Theory is that lots of butterflies cause hurricanes for some reason. Fair enough, although there's only the most tenuous of connections between the involved complex mathematics of Chaos Theory and this clunker of a...thing. Calling it a film would be a disservice to all other films.

As a kid, Evan Treborn would suffer blackouts of traumatic events, the cause of which was never sufficiently discovered apart from a vague connection to his institutionalised father. As he grew up into a strapping Ashton Kutcher, bebearded psychology student these episodes subsided, something that can only be attributed to the presence of his massive roommate Thumper (Ethan Suplee) providing a sort of memory capturing gravitational field generated by his fat gothic bulk.

For reasons to inane to recall, Evan discovers that by reading his childhood journals from the times he suffered these memory holes he can jump back into his younger self's body and fiddle with his destiny. Problems arise as lives cannot be changed in isolation, and while Evan endeavours to change his friend's and his own lives for the better, things have a habit of gang aft aglay.

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While trying to fix various life affecting misdeeds perpetrated either on or by his close friends Lenny Kagan (Elden Henson), Kalley (Amy Smart) and her hoodlum of a brother Tommy (William Lee Scott), various different and generally worse versions of reality emerge, such as Kalley ending up a smack addled hooker, Evan murdering Tommy, Lenny going nuts and retreating into his own mind and Evan being completely unable to emote.

Oh, sorry, that last one's just a product of Kutcher's dismal acting ability. In a film where the basis for it being vaguely reasonable hinges on Evan's actions changing his own character, the only difference he can make between the iterations of his character is how he styles his beard. Rumours abound, possibly confirmed by this point, I have no inclination to waste my time finding out, that Kutcher was sent on acting lessons to try and polish him up a little but on seeing the frankly hilarious reactions to things like 'waking up with no arms' the studio have a sound basis for a refund.

The really annoying thing about The Butterfly Effect is that it's not quite bad enough to be appreciated as a memorably awful film. It's just a really bad film, as there's been just enough of a turd polishing operation to neuter most of the hilarity before it begins. It's sad, in a way, as I've no doubt whatsoever that this could have been the funniest, most flounderingly atrocious horror show ever if only they'd put the effort into it, or perhaps not into it, if that makes any sort of sense.

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Everyone in the world has extracted their pound of flesh from Kutcher by now, to the point that he's refused to do any more publicity for it. To give him a break, it's not exactly his fault apart from exhibiting poor script selection choice in the first place. Kutcher isn't really miscast as such, as anyone would be miscast in this film. Not to mince words, it's just a really stupid plot. Beyond stupid, really. It's stupid in the same sense that World War Two was a bit of a fracas. It redefines stupid into a new and wonderful form of stupid that the English language has yet to catch up with.

Having not partaken of it thus far, I can't estimate exactly how much crack you'd have to smoke for the plot of The Butterfly Effect to make any sort of sense but I'm guessing it's a fair old whack. While it's both fun and easy to paint a target on the Kutcher pinata and smack him with a critical stick until he breaks open it's not exactly fair. He tries, bless him, and sadly it's the well intentioned effort on his part that makes it laughable. There's a point during his no-armed incarnation that he seems to give up for a while, giving his throwaway snide comments a real and genuinely amusing tone that's actually intentional. If he'd kept up this lack of professionalism throughout this would probably be an utterly unmissable movie.

He doesn't, and this isn't. The real targets of vitriol ought to be writer/directors Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber who surely have to have realised early on how daft everything they've written and everything they've tried to do is. They've created a completely unsalvageable mess that's likely to sink Kutcher before it does them. Perhaps that's the biggest travesty involved in this little nightmare, although the actual film runs it a close second. In the quiet words of Johnny Vegas, "You know who I feel sorriest for in all of this? Me.". Don't make my mistake, stay well away from any cinema screen showing this beast.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 1/5 TippyMarks.

Eric Bress
J. Mackye Gruber
Cast list:
Ashton Kutcher (Evan Treborn)
Melora Walters (Andrea Treborn)
Amy Smart (Kalley Miller)
Elden Henson (Lenny Kagan)
William Lee Scott (Tommy Miller)
Ethan Suplee (Thumper)
John Patrick Amedori (Evan at 13)
Irene Gorovaia (Kayleigh at 13)
Kevin Schmidt (Lenny at 13)
Jesse James (Tommy at 13)
Logan Lerman (Evan at 7)
Sarah Widdows (Kayleigh at 7)
Jake Kaese (Lenny at 7)
Cameron Bright (Tommy at 7)
Eric Stoltz (George Miller)
Callum Keith Rennie (Jason Treborn)