The Butterfly Effect


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Rating: R

Ashton Kutcher as Evan Treborn
Amy Smart as Kayleigh Miller
Kevin Schmidt as Lenny at 13
Melora Walters as Andrea Treborn
Elden Henson as Lenny Treborn
Eric Stoltz as George Miller
John Patrick Amedori as Evan at 13
Cameron Bright as Tommy at 8
William Lee Scott as Tommy Miller
Brandy Heidrick as Kristin
Ethan Suplee as Thumper
Grant Thompson as Hunter
Logan Lerman as Evan at 8
Daniel Spink as Toby
Irene Gorovaia as Kayleigh at 13
Jesse Hutch as Spencer
Jesse James as Tommy at 13
John B. Lowe as Professor Carter
Kevan Ohtsji as Anesthesiologist
Callum Keith Rennie
Sarah Widdows as Kayleigh at 7

Special Features:
Director’s Cut of the Film

Theatrical Version of the Film

The Science and Psychology of the Chaos Theory

The History and Allure of Time Travel

Fact Track

Deleted Scenes

Filmmaker Commentary by co-directors and co-screenwriters Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber

The Creative Process documentary

Visual Effects documentary

Storyboard Gallery

Original Theatrical Trailer

DVD ROM Content – Script to Screen, Image Gallery, Exclusive Infinifilm Content

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1) – Enhanced for Widescreen Televisions
Dolby Digital EX 5.1 Surround Sound
DTS ES 6.1 Stereo Surround Sound
English and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: Director’s Cut -120 minutes, Theatrical Version – 144 minutes

The less you know about The Butterfly Effect going in, the more you will probably enjoy it. Turn back now! I have tried to keep this review limited to information shown in the trailers, though.

As a child, Evan Treborn frequently had blackout spells. One minute everything would be normal, the next he’d wake up unaware of what happened that last few minutes. Many of these blackouts occurred around his childhood friends – Kayleigh, Lenny, and Tommy. Each of these children had serious emotional and psychological trauma for one reason or another. In order to help him remember what happened during these times, Evan’s mother suggested that he write everything down in a daily journal.

Years later in college, Evan has left his troubled friends behind and is facing a promising future. He has gone 7 years without blackouts. However, when he goes back to read his childhood journals, something amazing happens. Evan is transported back in time to his mind and body during the blackouts. As an adult he is able to see what he missed as a child. Evan also discovers something else. While in the past, he can change events and rewrite the future.

When Evan attempts to set things right for his childhood friend Kayleigh, he initially believes that he is successful. His world is completely turned upside down, but she’s happy. Unfortunately, this unpredictably changes events for one of his other friends. As Evan returns to the past to try and set that right, he makes things even worse for his future self. Things quickly spiral out of control and Evan must set things right before he goes insane. Or is he insane already?

The Butterfly Effect is rated R for violence, sexual content, language and brief drug use.

The Movie:
The Butterfly Effect doesn’t do anything new as far as time travel movies are concerned. We’ve seen people travel to the past and change the future in Back to the Future, Time Cop, and even a hilarious episode of The Simpsons. What makes Butterfly Effect interesting is that it takes those familiar time travel themes and repackages them in a way that makes them feel new. The way Evan goes back to the past is unique. The way you are first introduced to it is creepy ala The Sixth Sense. The way you start caring for the characters makes it all come together such that the final result is a really entertaining film. It takes elements from Somewhere in Time, various time travel movies, and even Bedazzled and makes something unique.

I must start out by saying that I think Aston Kutcher is a buffoon. He plays idiots on That 70’s Show, Punk’d, and every movie he has been in. He’s never struck me as a particularly great actor. For him to take a serious role seems to be a real stretch. However, Kutcher surprisingly pulls it off. He’s very restrained as Evan and his performances perfectly mirror those of his character’s younger incarnations. As Evan jumps from timeline to timeline and his mind is flooded with memories, you see his personality start to subtly change. He slowly begins to act like the person he has become. By the end he’s bordering on insanity. It’s a strong performance and it shows he’s suitable for bigger and better things.

The supporting cast is fantastic. The children who play the younger versions of the characters are wonderful. They perfectly match the adult actors. The young version of Tommy played by Jesse James is one of the most evil characters I’ve ever seen. His adult version, played by William Lee Scott, is also quite scary. He is so bad that you’d never in a million years expect to see him as a good guy by the end of the movie, but it works. Amy Smart is also impressive as she transforms to everything from a sorority girl to a hooker in this film.

I also thought I had this movie figured out, but there were a couple of fake outs before it concluded on the logical ending for the story. There were a lot of different ways it could have finished, but I think they did it in a satisfying way that I won’t spoil here. Overall, The Butterfly Effect is well worth checking out.

Despite enjoying the film, I recognize that there were a couple of problems with The Butterfly Effect. As good as Kutcher is in the movie, he does carry extra baggage with him. People see him primarily as a comedic actor, so when he does something slightly off in the movie, people laugh. For example, there’s one scene where Kutcher is running down a hall trying to break out of a psychiatric ward. Rather than having it be a serious, intense moment, people laughed at the way he was running. In another scene he appears without arms. Rather than being a major shock, people in the audience were laughing at him. For that reason, Kutcher’s past drags down the movie a little.

The other problem is the gratuitous nudity. There are several instances where breasts are bared for what seems to be for no other reason than to secure an R rating. If they would have dropped that and toned down the language a little bit, they could have had a good, mainstream, PG-13 thriller. Instead they have a movie for a limited audience of people only over 17 (theoretically). It doesn’t make business sense and this is show business.

This DVD also features the “director’s cut” of the film. The biggest difference is the ending and the scenes that set it up. In the conclusion of this version, Evan goes back in time to when he was about to be born in the hospital. Within his mother’s womb, he commits suicide. His mother then reveals that she’s had three other stillbirths, thus implying that she’s had other children with time travel powers. It’s a dark, depressing, and disturbing ending to the film. I much preferred the theatrical ending that was shown.

The Extras:
This DVD marks one of New Line’s first “Infinifilm” DVDs. That’s really just a fancy way to say that they have integrated the bonus features into the movie. If you choose, you can watch the movie with occasional prompts that lead you to the various bonus documentaries. This has been done on other DVDs, but it’s a little more in-depth and organized here. However, if you choose, you can watch the bonus features separate from the film. Here’s a rundown of the highlights:

Filmmaker Commentary by co-directors and co-screenwriters Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber – Bress and Mackye offer a lot of insight into the making of the film from the story to the characters to the acting. After all, they wrote and directed the movie. However, what they really needed was additional input from Ashton Kutcher and Amy Smart to really complete the commentary. It’s interesting as it is, but it needed that little something extra to make it really worth listening to.

The Creative Process documentary – These are all the short Infinifilm videos played back to back. They get into how they came up with the story idea, how they cast the film, etc etc etc. It’s your standard “making of” videos, but worth checking out if you liked the film. Look for behind the scenes footage, interviews with cast and crew, and more.

Visual Effects documentary – Again, these are more of the Infinifilm videos spliced together. They cover the time travel effect, the missing limbs effect, the explosion scenes, and more. The insight into the making of the effects is interesting and you appreciate what they were able to accomplish with limited resources.

The Science and Psychology of the Chaos Theory – For these videos, the creators quizzed physicists and psychologists about the real Butterfly Effect theory. This gets heavy into how it applies both to weather and the human mind. It’s quite interesting, but it can get a little repetitive at times.

The History and Allure of Time Travel – The title is pretty much self-explanatory. They discuss other time travel films and real time travel theory. I found it interesting that they noted there are three means of time travels in fiction – going back through the mind, with a time machine, or forward in time with cryogenics. I never really thought about that before, but it is insightful.

Fact Track – You can watch the film with blurbs of trivia that occasionally pop up.

Storyboard Gallery – This film was heavily storyboarded before it was shot and you can see some of those boards along with the final shots here. It’s a standard DVD feature these days.

Deleted Scenes – There were just a handful of deleted scenes. Some were so brief that I almost couldn’t tell what was different from the original film. Others were more significant. The most notable were three different endings to the theatrical version of the movie. In one, Evan passes Kayleigh on the street, then stops, turns around, and follows her. (This was dubbed the “Stalker Ending”.) In another version, the two stop, he reintroduces himself to Kayleigh, and they strike up a conversation. (This was dubbed the “Happy Sappy” ending.) The third version was the one seen in the film.

The Bottom Line:
Filled with scares, laughs, action, romance, and drama, The Butterfly Effect is one of the first good movies of 2004. Even Aston Kutcher is tolerable and supported by an excellent cast. It’s worth at least a rental.