Main cast: Ashton Kutcher (Evan Treborn), Melora Walters (Andrea Treborn), Amy Smart (Kayleigh Miller), Elden Henson (Lenny Kagan), William Lee Scott (Tommy Miller), Ethan Suplee (Thumper), and Eric Stoltz (George Miller)
Directors: Eric Bress and J Mackye Gruber
The Butterfly Effect is an introduction to complex and dark movies for the teenage demographic. Hopefully, a few of the Ashton Kutcher’s teenage fans lured into watching this movie will come out with a deeper appreciation for movies more substantial than the average episode of Punk’d. As a well-paced, entertaining, and even heartbreaking movie at places, this is a step up from vapid fluff of M Night Shyamalan but lacks the edge to make it a truly memorable movie.
Evan Treborn plays a very troubled twenty-year old who is supposedly deeply in love with fellow troubled youngster Kayleigh Miller to the point that he keeps going back in time to change the events in their troubled childhood and teenaged years to find the perfect version of a life they can live together. The original Evan, Kayleigh, along with Kayleigh’s mentally unstable brother Tommy and their friend Lenny, come straight out of a textbook Stephen King teenager clique handbook: their sad stories include sexual abuse at the hands of Kayleigh’s father, physical abuse by Evan’s mentally ill father (a fate that Evan fears will befall him), alienation from their peers, and more. But with each excursion into the past, Evan realizes that he ends up changing the present with increasingly disastrous results. Such is The Butterfly Effect, where even the smallest action taken could result in significant consequences.
The movie doesn’t troubled itself too much with explanations regarding Evan’s gifts. It hints that he and his father share this ability in using their journals as well as family photos as a conduit to travel back into their own bodies in the past. It is Evan’s life falling increasingly out of control the more he tries to manipulate his past that becomes the crux of the storyline.
It is easy to be caught up in Evan’s increasingly desperate actions as he only becomes more frantic – the more he tries to change things, the more he bungles up things, which only leads to heartbreaking results. The movie is well-paced enough to keep the momentum going forward, while Evan, over-the-top in his angst but still sympathetic enough regardless, is doing everything out of love. How can I not be moved by his plight? And unlike Quantum Leap, this movie ends on a somewhat upbeat note to give both pessimists and optimists something to cheer for. Pessimists can safely walk away satisfied by the movie keeping to its dark tone nearly the entire movie, optimists can leave the theatre thinking that any minute now Evan would pick up the pieces and try one more time at a happy ever after he has fought so hard to have, and teenage girls can run away to write fanfics because Mr Kutcher, to them, is so-ooo-ooo hot and this movie is like, omigosh, so-ooo-ooo heartbreaking.
Ashton Kutcher lacks the melancholic gravity needed to pull off the role of Evan, although he does an adequate job here. He grows a stubble, but that doesn’t mean that he automatically gets the emotional range needed to go along with that artfully unkempt Tortured Hunky Young Hero look. Because his Evan isn’t solid enough to fully convince me of his tortured inner turmoils, The Butterfly Effect doesn’t manage to rise above the call of duty to become a really memorable supernatural thriller. It is, though, a very interesting and enjoyable supernatural thriller that is substantial enough to sink one’s teeth into if one is a fan of the supernatural genre.