Movie Review
The Butterfly Effect
Butterfly Effect poster
By Craig Younkin     Published January 25, 2004
US Release: January 23, 2004

Directed by: Eric Bress J. Mackye Gruber
Starring: Ashton Kutcher , Amy Smart , Kevin Schmidt , Melora Walters

Running Time: 113 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $57,762,000
Deserves credit on the idea alone, but you always get the feeling that it could have worked so much better had it been in more experienced hands.
Rarely do you find a movie that is as interesting a concept as "The Butterfly Effect." The idea is very ambitious, especially for a January movie, but the execution is not. For every inspired plot device in this film, there is another ludicrously contrived one. Every time we think the movie is trying to capture our emotions, it turns heavy-handed and we lose interest. And every time we try to understand the characters, we see that they are very miscast.

The story centers on Evan Treborn, a seven-year old who has the tendency to black out the most traumatic and disturbing elements of his childhood. This mental problem can be traced back to his father, who went through the same blackouts as a young man who was institutionalized later when he started to remember the parts he blacked out. There is more to it than that: Evan (Ashton Kutcher) is able to do the same thing, only he is also able to go back in time and alter the events. So in other words, when the pornographer neighbor had his daughter Kaleigh and Evan naked in the basement, Evan is able to go back to that point and change the horrible thing that happened that day, thus altering the future.

Only the real suspense of the movie comes when we learn that each alteration on the past has negative consequences in the future. Some of those consequences are compelling, including the day Evan saves a mother and her baby from a firecracker in their mailbox and ends up losing his arms during the ordeal. But others make no sense, like when Kaleigh's brother is murdered, she decides to turn to prostitution.

The plot is almost airtight though compared to the execution, which is horribly overwrought and ugly. Directors Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber, who to no surprise wrote last year's Final Destination 2, put in many scenes of sickening and disturbing violence that cross the boundaries of entertainment and good taste. It ends up distancing the audience from the characters when it should be adding more sympathy. The casting of Ashton Kutcher in a drama is odd if anything, especially considering the comic persona he has built up with shows like That 70?s Show and Punk?d.

Kutcher may have range, but here the character is complex and troubled while he seems to be finding it hard enough just keeping a serious face on (it just doesn?t look like it mixes). However, he does far better than Amy Smart, who plays the love of his life; there isn't much to like about her, and she relies on her makeup and costume design to do most of her acting.

The Butterfly Effect deserves credit on the idea alone, as not since Back to the Future has a time travel movie had so much to offer; but you always get the feeling that it could have worked so much better had it been in more experienced hands.
Craig's Grade: C
Craig's Overall Grading: 340 graded movies
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'Butterfly Effect' Articles
  • Friday Box Office Analysis (1/23)
    January 24, 2004    In his first dramatic appearance, Ashton Kutcher played very well with his fan-base on opening day, as The Butterfly Effect is on its way to a solid weekend take of about $16 - 17 million. -- Lee Tistaert