The Butterfly Effect (2004)
Ebert:1/2 Rolling Stone: TV Guide:1/2
Warning, minor plot points revealed!
It's still early in the year but so far The Butterfly Effect is my first big disappointment for 2004. When I saw the previews for this movie I had high hopes and when I heard it was being shown at Sundance I was even more excited. Then the reviews came out and people seemed to hate it. I don't usually trust other people's opinions but I did wait a couple weeks before I decided to give it a try myself. Unfortunately the reviews were right on the money this time. The Butterfly Effect is one of those "good idea" movies that just went horribly wrong.
I don't remember the last time I checked my watch this many times during a movie (and I sat through Looney Tunes: Back in Action!) One of the most annoying things about the film is it's misuse of the whole "Butterfly Effect" situation. Chaos theory, as taught by Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park, says that small events can have big consequences such as the famous example that a butterfly flapping its wings in Asia could result in a hurricane halfway around the world. This is a cool idea and if it was applied to a good story it would probably make a cool movie.
Unfortunately this film has nothing to do with the actual Butterfly Effect. It deals more with altered timelines, the idea that if you went back and changed the past it could have all sorts of unintended consequences. Remember how McFly kept screwing up the future in Back to the Future 1,2 and 3? The movie also reminded me of the terrible 90's TV show Sliders. This was a dumb series where kids jumped around to alternate realities and made a big deal over stupid reverses and inverted stereotypes. What if the color "red" meant "go" and "green" meant "stop?" Wouldn't that be crazy!? What if your boss was a "woman" instead of a "man?" Wouldn't that be crazy? Sliders asked these questions week after week until it was cancelled.
Using his "Butterfly Effect?" Ashton's character Evan is able to go back into the past and change how events took place. Then he wakes from his Butterfly fugue state and immediately adapts to his new reality with surprisingly little to no shock or concern. The reason he keeps jumping back and switching stuff is because he is trying to save the life of his childhood sweetheart. Unfortunately every time he changes the past her future goes from one bad situation to another. She dies, she becomes a crack whore, she falls in love with his best friend, etc. It just never works out right and along the way Evan's future takes a few bad turns as well. He goes to jail, he becomes a double amputee. What's a time jumping Slider to do?
The best thing I can say about this movie is that the little kids they got look a lot like the older actors. Although the two kids who play little Evan at different ages unrealistically seem to favor the same hair style through the years. The little kid who plays Evan's girlfriend's brother is great at playing a psycho. He's actually scary. In fact the stuff the kids do and have done to them is all terrible horrible stuff. I was surprised to see some of it in a movie that wasn't directed by Larry Clark (Kids, Bully.)
Despite his "It Boy" status I like Ashton Kutcher. I don't have a problem with his acting skills either as recent derisive articles have mentioned. He plays a college kid here and it's just as believable as the college age kid he plays on That 70's Show. If he ever gets cast as a nuclear physicist or takes the role of Hamlet then he would be out of his element but this film is fine for him. I'm no fan of Amy Smart but she's OK as Evan's unfortunate girlfriend. Eric Stoltz pops in a few times to score some beer money I assume. He seems to be there against his will or something so his role is not as great as his cameo in Pulp Fiction.
The only other character of note is Evan's college roommate played by Ethan Suplee. He is literally one of the fattest people I have ever seen in a movie. Even if he wasn't decked out in a bunch of Goth clothes he would still be a freakish sight. He's distractingly fat, if there is such a thing. Although I'm sure it was not meant to be funny, the funniest thing about this guy, besides his gigantic fattness, is his "crazy Slider" ability to constantly be scoring with sexy Goth chicks. Now you know something's wrong with your Butterfly reality when hideous monstrously fat Goth guys are regularly having sex with hot college girls, right?
I do not recommend The Butterfly Effect. I wouldn't even pay to rent it. Perhaps if you have already paid for HBO and it happens to be on some afternoon when you have nothing else better to do it might be worth watching. In my perfect world a butterfly in Asia would have flapped it's wings and The Butterfly Effect would have never been made.