Published on January 27th, 2004 | by Erich Becker0
Review: The Butterfly Effect
The Butterfly Effect is much like Final Destination and Fight Club in the way that you will always find someone who likes the movie for what it is, maybe because it is a genre film, or maybe because the movie actually makes you think. For what ever the reason, those films stay in your mind as a fond memory of cinema where you could enjoy yourself for 120 minutes and not have to worry about the outside world. They also asked you to leave the theater with a thought in your head, the thought of what could really happen if such a situation presented itself. As with The Butterfly Effect, what if you could go back and change the way things happened? What if everything, and everyone, would have a better life if only one such thing changed?
The Butterfly Effect gets its name for Chaos Theory which states that a butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the world could cause a hurricane on the other. It’s those sorts of things that really make you think. Just like Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) in Jurassic Park, as he describes the theory, what expect to happen, actually never does.
This film centers on Evan (Ashton Kutcher) a college student with a seemingly normal life after a childhood filled with hardship. Through the first part of the film we are introduced to Evan and his friends Kayleigh (Amy Smart), Tommy (William Lee Scott), and Lenny (Elden Henson). Tommy is an abused, possibly molested, sibling to Kayleigh and very protective of his sister. As a child Evan experiences blackouts that inhibit him from remember the actions that led up to an event, and his actions after the fact. When his memories start to unfold in college he seeks his friends out to help him fill in the gaps. After talking with Kayleigh, and upsetting her, she kills herself and Evan vows to save her. Using his journals as guides he focuses in on the blackouts of a certain event and is transposed back in time to alter the event, but like Homer Simpson stepping on a bug in the past, these time travel exploits have vast repercussions on the future.
The film has more than one thing going for it. First off the story is not grade-A-quality, but it really makes you think at times, and intrigues you with the surprising results that Evan’s little changes make. At times you think his life has gotten better, in one instance he is a member of the frat he despises in the “real” world, but that life puts him in prison after brutally beating Tommy. The conflicts between the characters are portrayed excellently, with a special shout out to young rising star, Amy Smart.
The biggest story in the post-release press for The Butterfly Effect was the quality of Ashton Kutcher’s acting, and I, personally, don’t think he did a bad job in the film. Its hard to see him in any other role that a stoner (Dude, Where’s My Car?) or the dim-witted Kelso (That 70’s Show), but if you set aside any predetermining factors about the man, and his tabloid inspired news, you can actually see a young actor that, with some training, can become a worthy drama actor. His portrayal as the older Evan in this film isn’t worthy of any awards, but it shouldn’t dog him later in his career. It’s nice to see him branching out.
The special effects in the film are done fairly well. Most notable is the “time-warping” sequence that the audience sees whenever Evan travels in time. On part, towards the end of the film, may not look as good as a similar sequence in Forest Gump, but it does earn a passable rating.
The Butterfly Effect is sure to become a cult favorite, if not a mild box office hit. The film has all the makings of something great, but comes up a bit short in the story and directing departments. Luckily the story doesn’t leave any room open for a sequel, as that would defeat the purpose of such a film as this. Now if we could only go back in time and stop the Wachowski Brothers from ruining The Matrix franchise, everything would be hunky-dory.