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1 item from 2004


The Butterfly Effect

16 January 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Opens

Friday, Jan. 23

PARK CITY -- Latching on to an absolutely preposterous premise about alternate realities and mysterious mental maladies, the writing-directing team of Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber manufacture an entertaining piece of supernatural nonsense whose sheer audacity disarms all (well, nearly all) skepticism. The only downside to the outrageous story line is the filmmakers' exploitation of extreme criminal behavior, ranging from kiddie porn and pedophilia to animal torture and beatings with baseball bats.

The presence of Ashton Kutcher, who exec produces, ensures solid opening-weekend grosses, but what his fan base will make of this weird melodrama is hard to predict. Certainly, "The Butterfly Effect" goes in the opposite direction of his first two film vehicles, "Dude, Where's My Car?" and "Just Married".

Kutcher's Evan Treborn has many missing gaps in his past, blackouts he experiences from an early age where he is unable to recall traumatic events. While brain scans show no abnormalities, his mother (Melora Walters) worries desperately because his father, long ago locked up in a loony bin, experienced similar mental black holes.

A psychologist (Nathaniel Deveaux) suggests that he keep a diary detailing his daily life. In college years later, he happens upon these notebooks and reads a passage. Suddenly, Evan is thrust back in time, reliving an event his mind refused to record. Back in the present and with a nosebleed to show for his time travel, Evan realizes that these blackouts are a kind of bookmark to which he can travel back whenever he reads a passage leading up to an unremembered event.

Inhabiting his childhood body, Evan finds he is able to alter these terrible events and thereby undo the damage done not only to himself but to his childhood sweetheart Kayleigh (Amy Smart), her brother Tommy William Lee Scott) and a neighborhood buddy, Lenny (Elden Henson). The root of all evil here is Kayleigh and Tommy's abusive father (Eric Stoltz). By altering these past incidents, however, Evan returns to a vastly changed present. And each time he thinks he has altered everyone's life for the better, he discovers that he has made some things worse.

There is sly comedy in the idea that altering one event will transform Kayleigh from a bubbly sorority girl to a drug-addicted whore. Or change Tommy from a psycho ex-con to a heroic frat boy. Or transfigure Lenny from a fat, institutionalized killer to a slim and bright student.

Evan himself doesn't change that much other than his choice in wardrobe and roommates. He remains a guy driving himself crazy by trying to create a happy ending but getting outsmarted by uncontrollable chains of events.

Kutcher makes the incredible credible by approaching each of his altered roles with realistic acting. Ditto the rest of the cast, who anchor the wacky transformations with thoroughly believable and engaging performances. Just as the best comedy is delivered with a straight face, the best melodrama is executed with passion and conviction.

In their second feature effect, Bress and Gruber show a flair for the dramatic and the smarts to make the preposterous provocative. Their production team goes for horror-film flourishes such as Michael Suby's nerve-jangling score and Matthew F. Leonetti's dynamic cinematography. Production and costume designers Douglas Higgins and Carla Hetland have a field day creating alternate realities utilizing the same basic locations and sets.

THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT

New Line Cinema

A Benderspink/FilmEngine productionin association with Katalyst

Credits:

Writer-directors: Eric Bress, J. Mackye Gruber

Producers: Chris Bender, A.J. Dix, Anthony Rhulen, JC Spink

Executive producers: Toby Emmerich, Richard Brener, Cale Boyter, William Shively, David Krintzman, Jason Goldberg, Ashton Kutcher

Director of photography: Matthew F. Leonetti

Production designer: Douglas Higgins

Music: Michael Suby

Co-producer: Lisa Richardson

Costume designer: Carla Hetland

Editor: Peter Amundson

Cast:

Evan Treborn: Ashton Kutcher

Kayleigh Miller: Amy Smart

George Miller: Eric Stoltz

Tommy Miller: William Lee Scott

Lenny Kagan: Elden Henson

Thumper: Ethan Suplee

Andrea Treborn: Melora Walters

Dr. Renfield: Nathaniel Deveaux

Running time 113 -- minutes

MPAA rating: R »

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1 item from 2004


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