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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

The Butterfly Effect

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Judy Thorburn

Ashton Kutcher Is Not Effective In "The Butterfly Effect"

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ASHTON KUTCHER IS NOT EFFECTIVE IN “THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT”

Time travel and alternate realities are subjects the human race has always found fascinating. Scientists, theorists, and writers of books, TV and big screen movies have delved into that premise of what if, and come up with some interesting takes on the concept.  Films have taken us Back to the Future, let us step on board The Time Machine and allowed us to share the journey with other heroes who travel into the past in hopes of changing their future. But, there is a glitch. There is no predicting the consequence of just a tiny ripple in the sands of time.  Even the simple flutter of butterfly wings can have a major effect felt half way round the world, according to the words based on the “chaos theory” that come across the screen at the beginning of the film.  It is a forewarning of what’s in store in this compelling, but somewhat uneven, sci fi thriller.

If you were a fan of the TV series, Quantum Leap, then the method of time travel in this new film is nothing new.  But, Ashton Kutcher is a far cry from Scott Bacula, the actor who starred in the show, and helped make it a hit.  As an Executive Producer of The Butterfly Effect, Kutcher seemed to think he had the acting chops to take on the tortured lead character that bounces back and forth in time trying to change his present, not realizing the disastrous consequences of his actions.  The interesting script demands more from Demi Moore’s boy toy, the former underwear model turned actor, well known for starring in comedies such as TV’s That 70’s Show and movies like Dude, Where’s My Car? and the more recent, Just Married.  Granted, Kutcher is funny in those roles, proving he has found his niche with comedy. But, if Butterfly Effect is supposed to be the breakout role to show he can handle drama, he has failed miserably. The truth is, the guy can’t act. His serious part comes off more in the comedy vein. In three words – it’s a joke! Too bad, since most of the supporting cast, including the kids who portray Kutcher’s character in his younger years, do a bang up job and are left to carry the film.

The movie revolves around Evan Treborn (Kutcher), the troubled relationship he shared with three childhood friends and parents, and his efforts to make things right.  They consist of sweet blonde, Kayleigh Miller, a victim of her demented father’s abuse, her brother Tommy, a sadistic punk, and chubby, asthmatic, follower Lenny, whose interactions play a key part in the plotline, along with Evan’s father, who is in a mental institution, and his worried mom, who thinks her son may be heading for the same place.

As a youngster, whenever Evan experienced a traumatic event with his friends, he would suffer blackouts and awake with no memory of what had occurred.  This causes Mom to take Evan for X rays and other tests, but it only results in the doctor advising Evan to keep a journal to help jog his memory. Flash-forward to college, where Evan is 7 years free of blackouts, and now a psyche major studying the complexities of memory loss. He feels that reading his journals may be the key to explaining his missing memories. What he discovers is that each time he reads words on a page, he is thrust back into the body of his younger self at the time they were written, just before a blackout.  Only, with every visit back to his past self, to try and change the course of events, Evan creates an impact on the future with an outcome more horrific than the time before.

Amy Smart stands out with a strong performance as the adult Kayleigh, inhabiting the same character with personas as opposite as the hardened drugged whore or sweet sorority girl, depending on the time shift.  Also, notable is Jesse James (Blow) extremely convincing with his scary portrayal of the young, prone to violence, sociopath, Tommy. And, although Eric Stoltz is creepy as their twisted, pedophile father, I wish this extremely talented actor would be given parts other than the despicable lowlife characters I have seen him play recently. Remember his remarkable movie debut as Cher’s facially disfigured son in Mask? What happened? He should have been a major star by now, rather than just another supporting player.

Back on track -co-writers/directors J. Mackye Gruber and Eric Bress (Final Destination 2) have made an imaginative, but dark thriller that kept me interested in seeing the final resolution.  I especially liked the neat visual effects utilized in depicting the transition through Evan’s point of view as he left his body and traveled to his younger versions.  But, I cannot dismiss the brutal and disturbing sequences and subject matter that are uncomfortable and made me squirm in my seat. Animal lovers/activists and victims of child abuse take note; there are some very nasty scenes that could have been omitted, as far as I am concerned.

If you can disregard this issue, plus the problems of time travel paradoxes, no explanation for Evan’s “gift”, or why his Dad, who shared it didn’t try to change HIS past, and just enjoy the film by going with the flow, The Butterfly Effect may be an effective movie treat. As, for Ashton Kutcher, in reality, it’s a shame he can’t go back into the past and correct his mistake, by casting some other actor instead of himself, as the lead. Perhaps that would have made a wrong - right, altered the film, and maybe even, this review.