BUTTERFLY EFFECT, THE
All his life, Evan Treborn (Ashton Kutcher) has suffered from mysterious blackouts, after which he doesn’t remember what happened to him. As he grows from a 7 year old, through his early teens into his early 20s, Evan keeps losing parts of his life – parts that seem to matter a great deal, often to do with his childhood sweetheart Kayleigh (Amy Smart). His father, whom he meets in a brief, dramatic confrontation in a mental hospital, suffers from a rare disorder. Evan may be suffering something similar, his mother (Melora Walters) fears. There seems no cure, but he is urged to keep a diary by a psychologist, which soon turn into the powerful keyholes through which he reclaims parts of his life – making changes to certain events in an effort to help wipe out unfortunate consequences. Mostly, his attempts simply alter the damage, not improve it.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Confusing the butterfly effect for ‘sliding doors’, the writer/directors have stumbled onto making the most embarrassingly funny black comedy to come out of America for a long time. Perhaps ever. It was never intended that way, but for sheer deadpan, laugh out loud comic melodrama with a sick bent, The Butterfly Effect is unbeatable, a specially concocted tonic, it makes you laugh at the most appalling moments. Like when a comatose mental patient, strapped to his trolley in a stark, empty room, is asked in a bland tone: “Can I get you something?” I have to spoil this moment for you (I won’t do it again) to illustrate what I’m talking about. And if you soil yourself at bad taste humour, there are moments to treasure in this film, involving artificial limbs. (I promised ….)
The first half of the film is a little dull: I glanced at the time and noted wearily the film was only an hour old. But then things start getting out of hand as poor Evan whisks himself through his tortuous process of recalling the past, bleeding from the nose and evidently in great pain. As he returns to the past, the same timeframe around a certain tragic event that is the catalyst for the entire plot, we are whisked along with him to alternate scenarios. What would have happened if he had done this, or that. Except now, with what he knows as a grown up, he actually creates change in the past, to alter the outcomes. An interesting concept – for a moment, but not for two hours, when the concept’s flaws become overbearingly evident.
However, the film’s special effects (and the outrageous, sex maniac fat guy) are truly terrific, especially the repetition of close ups of his diary entries where the actual writing, the words, begin to wobble and shake independent of the paper (as does everything and everyone else in the scene). This is the real invention in The Butterfly Effect, together perhaps with the possibility that the filmmakers have unwittingly invented a new genre: blackout comedy. Don’t miss it.
Review by Louise Keller:
Misguided, misconceived and absolutely absurd, The Butterfly Effect is a demonic-themed sci-fi thriller that challenges anyone to watch it straight faced. Problem is, the filmmakers are not intending us to laugh, but to view it as a ‘challenging, roller coaster ride through inner-space’. First time directors J. Mackye Gruber and Eric Bress (Final Destination 2), who also penned the script (more than six years ago), somehow convinced the studios to greenlight this project, which may in the hands of a better and more experienced director/s, have been less of a disaster. When Bress says ‘I think the greatest thrill of my life is going to be watching that first audience,’ I am sure he did not anticipate uncontrolled laughter, which for a dark thriller with innately disturbing themes, is most inappropriate.
It’s a bit like Sliding Doors meets The Omen in The Time Machine, as we embark on a journey in four different time frames. It’s credit to Ashton Kutcher that he delivers his lines poker faced, although at times, he looks as though he has forgotten which film he is in. The scene when he manically races down the corridors of a psychiatric hospital could easily be mistaken for slapstick, while his cowering naked behind a towel and edging his way into the women’s showers is sheer comedy. The moment in the prison’s visiting room when his mother has just brought him two of his journals (which are obviously not enough for him), is fuel enough to make Evan explode into melodrama, while the audience dissolves into hysteria. The dialogue is ludicrous: ‘Remember me – we had a chat once when I was seven,’ he asks Kayleigh’s father; ‘Can I get you anything?’ to his catatonic friend, strapped helplessly in a psychiatric hospital bed; ‘Can you protect me?’ (on arrival at prison, to his tattooed cellmate Carlos). Like the transformation in The Hulk, we get all the signals, as Evan is about to travel into his past. But this is not a comic book, and all we are left is a twitching Kutcher with shaking hands and bloodied nose.
There is no doubt that this is an ambitious project, and the screenplay could well have some merit. Some of the film’s moments are intensely real – and there’s no denying that the images of a dog set alight and a woman and baby about to become victims of a purposely detonated explosive is chilling. Hence the incongruity of the ridiculous juxtapositioning with the seriously disturbing. Some moments do work – like the interaction between Evan and his goth-loving campus roommate, who brings edge and interest to his scenes. But ultimately, The Butterfly Effect is a big turkey, and the entertainment value unwittingly gained, is not the one intended.
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BUTTERFLY EFFECT, THE (MA)
CAST: Ashton Kutcher, Amy Smart, Kevin Schmidt, Melora Walters, Elden Henson, Eric Stoltz
PRODUCER: Chris Bender, A.J. Dix, Anthony Rhulen, Lisa Richardson, J.C. Spink
DIRECTOR: Eric Bress, J. Mackye Gruber
SCRIPT: Eric Bress, J. Mackye Gruber
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Matthew F. Leonetti
EDITOR: Peter Amundson
MUSIC: Michael Suby
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Douglas Higgins
RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 11, 2004
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