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2004, dir. Eric Bress & J. Mackye Gruber
113 min. Rated R.
Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Amy Smart, Ethan Suplee, Melora Walters.

Review by Justin Patterson

At my local head shop on Sunday (yes, Gwinnett County has those), I managed to snag a few passes to a preview screening of THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT. So, some buddies and I made the trek to Chambodia on Tuesday evening to check it out. Incidentally, I would like to thank The Artist Formerly Known As Ashton Kutcher for one thing. Given, he's a "no-talent ass clown" whose one redeeming quality used to be married to Bruce Willis, but apparently he appeals to young women. As a result, the theater was packed with a smorgasbord of the finest heterosexual women in the immediate metro ATL. Love that Joker!

Anyway, the title of the film is a reference to the chaos effect. This is an idea that finally reached worldwide saturation through the original JURASSIC PARK. The idea is that a butterfly, by flapping its' wings at a certain time and place, put into motion events that lead to a typhoon rather than clear skies. There are so many variables involved in the process that the least little thing can alter the course of the weather.

In THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT, Ashton Kutcher plays a young man with a really messed up past. He has significant gaps in his memory that only occur during the events that truly shape him. His father has been committed to Charter (if Charter were on steroids) and his mother is bothered that her son is showing some of the same symptoms that his father did. In order to try to track the blackouts, Kutcher begins to keep journals. He fills in comp books every day of his life.

A lot of bad things have happened in the life of Kutcher's character, Evan. Due to the blackouts, he only gets to experience the unfortunate aftermath of each event. Finally, though, a strange and rather severe breakthrough occurs. In reading through one of his old journals, Evan is taken back to the event and lives it. He doesn't remember it so much as has it happen to him for the first (second?) time. As he relives one event, he is burned by a cigarette. When he snaps out of it and is back in his own time, his belly has an old scar from a cigarette, and it's one that didn't used to be there.

Evan realizes that he can change the bad things in his past and sets out to right past wrongs. Unfortunately for everyone involved, every attempt at change leaves another person close to him in a far worse position. The rest of the film becomes a desperate attempt to undo the newly bad things that have happened, and it becomes obvious that a snowball effect will never let that happen.

On one level, the film has elements of both MEMENTO and BACK TO THE FUTURE in it. There is much more to it, though, and I have to admit that the film was much better than I had expected. It's no epiphany, but it brought much more to the table than I had anticipated.

Kutcher's performance fit the role well, and he wasn't pushed to any great peaks of talent. His supporting cast did a good job of constantly changing their characters to fit their new histories. Amy Smart (I can't believe I'm saying this) actually stood out in several respects. Eric Stoltz turned in a disturbing but otherwise unremarkable performance as the father of two childhood friends. Ethan Suplee, as always, was magnificent in his limited role.

This film had a lot more substance than I had thought it would, and it was a pleasant surprise. The shooting was somewhat familiar, which makes sense when you realize that the director also wrote and directed FINAL DESTINATION 2. The writing was imaginative, the plot was engaging, and I enjoyed it. There were areas that could have used some improvement, but those were only brought up after the film was over. While watching it, we all were able to really sink into just...watching.

Is it worth $8.50? If you make that much per hour, I would say no. If you're like me and like to catch movies on the big screen, it's worth checking out. If you hate Kutcher on the primal and pervasive level that much of America does, you'll also enjoy seeing him as a prison bitch.

Just a thought.


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