In fairness, The Butterfly Effect is not a terrible film. It’s a passable, Hollywood thriller, with a decent premise. Eric Stoltz turns in an excellent performance as a pedophile father. But the film exhibits far too many characteristics of the typical Hollywood hack job to be anything but the usual fair. And I watched the directors cut.
1) Ashton Kutcher? The casting in Hollywood consistently baffles me. My guess; this was a power play by Kutcher’s agent. First, set him up with Demi Moore so he’s in the tabloids, then get him a few “serious” roles and hopefully he becomes a long term cash cow. Or not. Kutcher didn’t even get asked to be in Harold and Kumar go to Whitecastle.
2) I think this is the first Kutcher film I’ve seen [Ed Note: Erich reviewed Dude, Where’s My Car], and I must concede that he’s a decent comic actor. The problem is that, apart from the little parody of fraternities, Der Butterfly Effect isn’t a comedy. There’s one scene of Kutcher running down a hallway in a state of terror, hilariously flailing his arms. Supposed to be funny? No. Was I wondering where Costello was? Yes.
3) I think some prop department has a Cramps poster and they break it out whenever some kid is supposed to be “alternative,” like Kutcher’s college roomie. One might think that a film in which half of the cast is in their 20s would get youth culture at least partially right. Instead, the director and wardrobe and set dressing make a character by just throwing together everything they’ve seen on the kid’s shirts at the record store where they buy their Kenny G and Dave Matthews albums. Yes, Dave Matthews is that banal. The roommate’s got liberty spikes, yet listens to gay, goth music. For our southern fried Readers, that would be similar to dressing like Brooks & Dunn, but listening to Hank Williams. Also, the roommate thinks that frat boys are wealthy for some reason. When one asks him for the time he says, “What, is your Rolex getting repaired?” In truth, many people join frats because it’s the cheapest way to live away from home. And because they’re retarded. A more appropriate response would have been, “When did you learn to tell time, retard? Go haze a freshman with your penis.”
4) Is it that hard to write an internally consistent screenplay? The film is called The Butterfly Effect because when Kutcher’s character uses his ability to remake his past, there are always unforeseen consequences. Much like the Treehouse of Horror where Homer turns his toaster into a time machine, only not nearly as intentionally funny. However, when the Kutch goes back into childhood and impales his hands on two of those pointy paper holder things in the middle of class, the butterfly effect is no where to be seen. He does this to himself so that scars will appear on his hands in the future, simulating a stigmata but the butterfly effect is nowhere to be seen. Apart from the scars, spontaneously driving spikes through both of his hands in the middle of class has no effect on the rest of his life whatsoever. When the scars appear, he’s in exactly the same situation that he was in before. So if a butterfly flutters in China, it can cause a hurricane in the U.S., but if a kid mutilates himself in the middle of school, his life will not be altered at all?
5) Kutcher kills a literal mental patient who is attacking him for about the fifth time. He does so in self-defense (well, kind of) after the mental patient attacks him with a monkey wrench. For some reason, Kutcher is not only prosecuted, but gets sent to a maximum-security prison without bail to await trial. That just isn’t how things work. True, this isn’t a great detraction from the film, but it’s just so lazy. If I was writing a movie that was going to be seen by millions of people around the world, I’d have enough pride to get the basic details right. At least until I heard that Ashton Kuthcher was attached to the project.
Special Ruthless Ratings:
- Film Overall: 4
- Number of times the movie was paused to do something else:0
- Number of times something else was done without pausing the movie: 2
- Isn’t Ashton cute: I don’t know. Ask Matt.