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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 Louise Keller:
I suspect this demonic-themed sci-fi thriller that challenges anyone to watch it straight faced, will find a greater audience on DVD. While it's misguided, misconceived and absolutely absurd, chances are, it will make for a modestly entertaining night, especially watching it over a few beer with a group of friends.

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.

The Butterfly Effect is generous in its DVD special features and the Text Commentary is an interesting option. When this option is selected, extensive notes relating to the production and the story appear on the screen. Not a bad idea for a film with so much complexity - at least we get to know the filmmaker's intention. There's an audio commentary from writers/directors Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber, a feature about the creative process, the visual effects, the chaos theory and time travel. And if you have had not had enough of the film, there are seven deleted scenes plus two alternate ending. What if.......

Published August 12, 2004

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CAST: Ashton Kutcher, Amy Smart, Kevin Schmidt, Melora Walters, Elden Henson, Eric Stoltz

DIRECTOR: Eric Bress, J. Mackye Gruber

RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes


SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary, text commentary, the creative process, behind the visual effects, chaos theory, time travel, deleted scenes, trailer

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video

DVD RELEASE: August 4, 2004

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