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The Butterfly Effect Review

By Shawn McKenzie 01/26/2004

This past weekend was the battle between the “That ‘70s Show” alums Topher Grace and Ashton Kutcher.  With Topher, it was Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!, and with Ashton, it was The Butterfly Effect.  In this race, I think it’s the TV star with the “Punk’d” background that came out on top.


Eight-year-old Evan Treborn (Logan Lerman) is a disturbed boy living alone with his mother, Andrea (Melora Walters.)  His father, Jason (Callum Keith Rennie), is locked up in Sunnyvale Institution, where he suffers blackouts and bouts of rage.  Evan is starting to get those blackouts as well, which always seem to happen around the times when something bad happens, and he can never remember what happened during them.  Dr. Redfield (Nathaniel Deveaux), his mental health doctor, suggests that he start keeping diary-like journals with the hope that they will recover the memories he has lost during those blackouts, but the journals don’t seem to work.  His blackouts at eight involved him holding a knife at one point, drawing a disturbing picture at another point, and supposedly making kiddie porn at a third.  These memories usually included his friends Kayleigh Miller (Sarah Widdows), with whom he was forced to make the kiddie porn filmed by her father George (Eric Stoltz); her brother Tommy (Cameron Bright), who has anger issues; and their fat friend Lenny Kagan (Jake Kaese.)  Five years later, at age 13, Evan (John Patrick Amedori) is involved in two other tragic events that change his life.  First is a prank involving the accidental death of a woman and her baby, which gets Lenny (Kevin Schmidt) in trouble; and second is the burning of his dog Crockett by Tommy (Jesse James) and injury of Kayleigh (Irene Gorovaia) at the same time.  Now Evan (Kutcher) is 20-years-old, a successful college student with a Goth roommate, Thumper (Ethan Suplee), and blackout-free for several years.  Lenny (Elden Henson) is still shell-shocked from the prank; Kayleigh (Amy Smart) has been out on her own since the age of 15 and working as a waitress; and Tommy (William Lee Scott) is still a jerk.  He comes across his old journals by chance, and starts to read them.  Suddenly, he remembers what happened during the blackouts.  Upon further experimentation, he realizes that he can go back to those points in his life with his adult knowledge and change the outcome of what originally happened.  After he returns to the present his original past rewinds, his new past fast-forwards, and he gets a nosebleed.  He starts out by deterring the kiddie porn from being made.  Upon returning to the present, he discovers that he and Kayleigh had become a couple (he had always had a connection with her anyway), but Tommy had become criminally violent.  Those were just two things that had changed for the better or worse, so he tries the revisiting-and-changing-his-past thing again, but each time he does it, he seems to make things worse.  He tries to figure out just which memory he needs to change to make everything okay so he and his friends’ fates turn out all right, especially Kayleigh, with whom he loves.


I was thinking that I’d be able to accept Topher in his first dramatic role before Ashton, but Ashton wasn’t bad.  Technically Win a Date is Topher’s first starring role, and it isn’t a drama, but he has shown dramatic chops in Traffic, so I think he will be good once he finally does one.  Ashton has several starring roles under his belt now, but they are all comedies, and not all of them are very good.  That is why I was a little worried about this movie, but fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised.  I did still see a little Kelso in him though.  Several times during the movie, I half expected him to shout, “Burn!”  That is one of the disadvantages of being a TV critic as well as a movie critic.  An actor’s TV character becomes so burned into your brain that you see that character in other roles they play.


I think that there are two reasons why I ended up liking this movie.  First, I usually like anything that has to do with time travel (heck, I even liked the Jean-Claude Van Damme movie Timecop.)  Timeline was probably the first time travel-related movie that I had seen in a while that I didn’t like.  That movie didn’t sway me from the genre though, and I was hoping that this one would make up for it.  Second, Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber, the screenwriting team behind Final Destination 2, directed it.  FD2 is one of those rare horror movies where I liked the sequel better than the original, so I was thinking that this movie, their directorial debut, would be sweet.  Yes, the movie did make up for Timeline and it was sweet.


Aston may not be the strongest actor out there, but The Butterfly Effect is a great start.  If you enjoy psychological thrillers combined with time travel movies, you need to check this one out.  Let’s see if Topher’s first drama can stack up to this one.


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