Welcome again to Movie Maundering. Further expanding upon my recent urge to punish myself for unknown sins likely committed in a past life by watching exceptionally poor movie choices, I just finished watching The Butterfly Effect.
Speaking of committed, this movie focuses most of its time around the theme of mental instability, insanity, and institutionalization. Evan Treborn is afflicted with a seemingly hereditary bout of behavioural instability, manifesting itself in the blacking out of traumatic events. But as it turns out, Evan, and his father and grandfather before him, were actually able to return themselves to these points in their past and redo them, dramatically changing the lives of everyone around them. Everyone else just thought they were crazy. But things never go quite right, someone always gets the stubby end of the dick when Evan goes time traveling, and though he might help one friend, he often causes greater damage to himself or others. So he sets out to fix that too… and there we have the movie.
The film is largely based around the model of Chaos Theory, a set of studies based in math, economics, philosophy and physics to study how any action can affect events far out of its scope. This is commonly known as the ‘Butterfly Effect’, where it is suggested that something as small as a butterfly can flap its wings and the ripple effect of that action could cause a hurricane halfway around the world.
Ashton Kutcher stars as Evan Treborn, though he is often portrayed in his teenage self or child self by John Amadori and Logan Lerman respectively. His paramount love interest and ultimate goal of the girl to rescue is played by Amy Smart, the character Kayleigh Miller. Other faces show up that you probably can’t name yourself like Elden Henson (Fulton from D2: The Mighty Ducks), William Lee Scott (teenage Anton in Gattaca) and bigman Ethan Suplee (Frankie from Boy Meets World). All in all a pretty decent cast. Ashton Kutcher does a crazy-man run that is a must-see.
I’ve gotta say, this movie had a fair bit going for it. Chaos Theory is an interesting premise for a movie. However…
This movie ended up with some cheesy balls in its mouth. The beginning of the movie is hard to follow, and though they try hard to build suspense and be dramatic, the feelings they are going for just aren’t there. It does possess a bit of the psychotic behaviour that will shock the audience, predominantly shown through Tommy Miller, Kayleigh’s brother. The problem child actively enjoys brutally delivering a beat down, and likes burning puppies. Pretty sick. Evan’s best friend Lenny also ends up in a mentally unstable state more times than not after his little ‘fixes’ as well, moving between quietly withdrawn, openly violent, and nearly catatonic.
Another serious flaw of the movie is its lack of focus. They attempted to try to cram too many big attention-getter issues into the movie, nothing gets more than a few minutes of play. Prostitution, child pornography, parental abandonment, abusive parents, lost loves, psychological trauma, fraternity douchebaggery, suicide, cancer… they hit on all the key effect points, but never stayed there long enough for anyone but Evan to care.
I have to mention as well that The Butterfly Effect has a few rather large holes in its plot. Mostly, I can’t understand why Evan refused to simply return to the blackout event in question when things went wrong and try a different way to fix it. True to its name, just a couple of tiny things make everything blow up for him in almost every case. He could just try it again, couldn’t he? Also, they never explain the origin of this hereditary ability to change the past? Was his grandfather exposed to gamma rays as a child? Attend Hogwarts? Or is it just some random genetic brain anomaly that allows them to manipulate time and space? Most frustrating.
Probably one of the things that bugged me the most is the Director’s Cut ending. In the Theatrical version, as a last resort, Evan realizes that Kayleigh is better off without him, and makes one last trip to a birthday party when they were 7 and proceeds to alienate her beyond all repair. They grow up separately, and are both decently successful and happy, and none of his friends are insane. There is even a cliché déjà vu moment as they pass each other in the street, and you think she recognizes him, but she’s not sure, so they keep on walking. But in the Director’s Cut, Evan decides that the world would be better off without him entirely, and travels back to the womb and strangles himself with the umbilical cord. What the fuck? No worries there, Mr. Emo, I’m sure your mom would love the gift of a third stillborn child. Nice work, champ.
In conclusion, The Butterfly Effect is a less than mediocre movie. I didn’t gain much enjoyment from it, and I spent most of my time waiting for it to get exciting. It was rather predictable, poorly explained, and dramatically ineffectual. The premise was good, the cast was pretty great, and even showed some decent versatility by being able to play their characters in several realities, but in the end, the film just did not deliver a lasting performance for the audience.
Wow, I got through this review without an abortion joke after watching a baby hang himself in the womb. Where’s DMUSER when you need him?