[an error occurred while processing this directive] The Butterfly Effect - Alex Rieneck - Movie Reviews - Gnomon Publishing
Movie Reviews

The Butterfly Effect

This film is most easily described as "Somewhere in Time" (Christopher Reeve) meets "Donnie Darko" via "Fight Club" and hydroponic marijuana. It wears its teen angst proudly on its sleeve and, I suspect if you are over the age of twenty-five and don"t care about the growing pains of fat, spoilt, middle-class American suburbanites, it will leave you very cold indeed.

If, on the other hand, you DO care about middle class angst, but loathe melodramatic camera work and editing, acting that never descends below "death scream" intensity but never hits a right note, and the sort of dialogue that is usually employed to sell toilet tissues, "The Butterfly Effect" will have all the appeal of a major traffic jam on a hot, dry, windless day.

"The Butterfly Effect" stars Ashton Kutcher, a tall young man of such startling beauty that I found it almost totally impossible to pay any attention to a single word that came out of his mouth. Instead, I spent my time alternately staring mindlessly at the lovingly created sets, and wondering, morosely, as to whether anyone as pretty as Ashton ever really has any problems more complex than deciding which Udo Kier film to watch next for more acting tips. The fact that in "Butterfly Effect" Ashton is being asked to carry pretty much the entire plot of a quite complex film only makes matters worse. Overall, the effect is rather like watching an elephant (albeit, a very attractive and graceful elephant) wallowing nobly in treacle, for far too long.

The only hint of inspiration that I could really identify in "The Butterfly Effect" was that the makers of the film seemed to have identified this major failing in their star and taken steps to address it. Instead of hiring quality actors to surround their beleaguered star they decided instead to surround him with lesser talents, that his star might shine more brightly. Sadly, this cunning plan backfired, and terminated in a film where just about no-one involved really acts, at all. The effect is rather like a series of MuppetsTM impersonating various cultural archetypes that the audience is expected to identify with, the most obvious of these being the overweight (but brave and sexually active) gothic guy who is designed to get the film "comicbook store cred" with the "youth cult set." It is all THAT obvious and THAT manipulative. That it is also THAT bad is a sad reflection on US "alternative" filmmaking. This film is big business masquerading as rebellion by way of sophomoric acting, and, if you have any taste, it shows.

The plot is simple at its essence, Ashton Kutcher has had a troubled childhood, and he gains the ability to physically project himself back in time and behave differently at crux points in his past. This means that horrible experiences play out differently and all events since then adjust themselves accordingly. Ashton has several goes at changing specific moments to create a perfect "guilt free"TM adulthood for himself, but finds that reality just seems to like dropping him in the shit. No matter how many times Ashton replaces craven with noble and noble with craven, things always seem to be shitty back in 2004. It is rather like the episode of "The Simpsons" where Homer turns his toaster into a time machine and then keeps fucking up dinosaurs in an attempt to "fix" things, but much longer, and not nearly as funny.

The ending transcends the whole film with levels of lachrymose snivelling self indulgence not seen since such classic cinema as "Sunshine" or even perhaps the great "Ice Castles" and finishes in veritable a tour de force of bullshit altruism.

If your teenager loves this film, you should hope that they will grow out of it, and think about sending them on some sort of "boot camp" to Antarctica. Seriously. If they hate it, stop treating them like a teenager and get your head around the fact that they have already grown up.

Consider anyone who has NOT seen it as blessed and recommend spending the money saved on some fine wine, or perhaps a decent book.

Rating: One star

(C)opyright Alex Rieneck, 2005.

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