The Butterfly Effect

Feb 4, 2004 at 12:00 am

The co-directors and co-writers of The Butterfly Effect, Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber, have achieved something truly stunning with this picture. They deserve some type of award or plaque or perhaps pendants that they can dangle on their chests, denoting the prominent place they now hold in film history. No wonder it took two people to put this together — only through diligent collaboration could they muster the stamina to create such an untiring, unrelenting 113 minutes of bombastic, mind-numbing crapola.

How could a movie that wantonly and irresponsibly exploits such serious material as the murder and sexual molestation of children, animal cruelty, sadism, lung cancer, crack addiction, prostitution, mental illness, fraternity hazing, nose bleeding, prison rape, single motherhood, chaos theory, time portals and the use of a dildo on an obese Goth rocker get any worse?

Give Ashton Kutcher the lead role, that’s how. Tell him he’s in a “serious” movie and watch him replace actual acting with unintentionally hilarious lip quivering and darting eyes and open-mouthed shoelace gazing and you’ve successfully buffered the audience from taking any of this misery seriously. Not one of the horrors on display in The Butterfly Effect ever resonates because they’re thrown at you with such poorly written abandon that they have all the power and shock of someone mooning you from a passing car.

Ashton Kutcher’s character, Evan Treborn, is shown at various stages of his life: child, teenager and college student. As a 7-year-old, he’s one of four other children whose fates are determined by a cool-as-a-cucumber, cruel pedo-phile, George Miller, played by Eric Stolz.

Miller makes child pornography in his basement with the help of his daughter, Kayleigh, his son, Tommy, and Evan — and in doing so makes a hell of the children’s lives. Is this what causes Evan to have blackouts, not being able to remember pivotal moments throughout the rest of his life? Or are the blackouts created by some psychological evolution that he and his hospitalized father both possess, allowing them to step back in time with the help of their journals and home movies? If this sounds intriguing, it’s not — believe me. This blackout/time travel/change-the-course-of-history schtick is just an excuse to allow the film to consistently violate the universe it sets out to create, resulting in a torrent of paradoxes and impossibilities, and a lifetime of material for those who love to nitpick and dissect a movie’s goofs and flaws. These groaners crop up about every four minutes, so even the least observant viewer will catch at least a dozen before the credits roll.

One star for the somewhat cathartic thrill of witnessing Kutcher get beaten with a baseball bat.

Dan DeMaggio writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].