out of Five
Running time: 113
Trashy, enjoyably stupid time-travel thriller featuring an amusingly bad performance by Ashton Dude, Where’s My Car? Kutcher.
There seem to be a lot of Memory Movies about at the moment, what with this, 50 First Dates and the upcoming (and fabulous) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It may be idle fantasy but one likes to imagine studio execs green-lighting anything even vaguely memory-related, in the hopes of unearthing their own Memento.
Sadly, The Butterfly Effect is no Memento, but if you have an Enjoyably Stupid Time-Travel Movie-shaped hole in your life, then this is what you’ve been waiting for.
Weird Kid With Broken Memory
Ashton Kutcher (from Dude, Where’s My Car? and That 70s Show) plays Evan Treborn. As a young boy, Evan was a weird kid who suffered from memory blackouts, usually when Very Bad Things were happening to either him or his friends. Doctors at the time decided that the best thing he could do would be to keep a journal. Now a university student studying memory, Evan discovers that he has the power to go back in time and change his life, merely by concentrating really, REALLY hard on stuff he wrote in his journals when he was, say, seven. Needless to say, things start going horribly wrong…
The Butterfly Effect is the sort of film that doesn’t stand up to even a moment’s scrutiny – this is not the sort of film you are meant to take seriously. However, it’s not a comedy, either and about halfway in, you start to wish they’d played it for laughs, particularly since a) some of the scenes are quite nasty and b) Ashton Kutcher is a pretty terrible dramatic actor and can only convincingly pull off one emotion: confused.
Certain Amount Of Energy
To be fair, the film does have a certain amount of energy and some decent supporting performances, particularly from Amy Smart (Road Trip, Starsky and Hutch), who, as Evan’s childhood sweetheart, gets to play crack whore, cheerleader and world-weary waitress all in the same movie. There’s also good support from Elden Henson, William Lee Scott (as Evan’s Evil Friend), Ethan Supplee (as Evan’s roommate who sadly gets ditched fairly early on) and Eric Stolz as the deeply creepy father of both Evil Friend and Amy.
That said, the film’s flaws are pretty numerous. The script has its share of awful moments (the prison near-rape scene springs to mind) and the ending is a total deus ex machina that really cheats the audience, despite being impressively non-Hollywood, relatively speaking.
In short, The Butterfly Effect is the sort of film you’ll enjoy much more if you accept going in that it’s going to be undemanding nonsense. Enjoyably stupid.