Directed by Eric Bress and J Mackye Gruber, starring Ashton Kutcher, Melora Walters, Amy Smart, Elden Henson, William Lee Scott, John Patrick Amedori, Irene Gorovaia, Kevin Schmidt and Eric Stoltz.
How can you make a poorly scripted film even worse? By casting Ashton Kutcher in the lead role, that's how. MTV star and supposed 'comic' actor, Kutcher makes his first foray into serious territory here, and the result is as confusing as the chaos theory that the film's title tenuously alludes to.
All his life Evan Treborn (Kutcher) has suffered from a brain illness whereby he blacks out at times of extreme emotional distress. As a method of treatment, the seven-year-old Evan is encouraged to keep journals of his experiences, moods and thoughts. With his father banged up in a psychiatric institution due to the same illness, Evan's future looks bleak. Still, with the aid of a determined mother, he manages to navigate his way to adulthood, to college, and to an understanding of his condition. Or has he?
Since his youth, Evan has shared a bond with Kayleigh (Smart), whose own early years have been blighted by domestic abuse. On moving away from his childhood home at the age of 14, Evan promised Kayleigh he'd be back for her. When he does return, it's too late, and the adult Kayleigh has descended into prostitution and drug addiction.
For 30 or 40 minutes, 'The Butterfly Effect' is actually quite solid. The early scenes with Evan as a seven-year-old and then as a teenager are well handled, and the unease created by the spectre of child abuse draws you in as to how the narrative will proceed. But when the action cuts to years later, things go horribly wrong.
Basically, Evan discovers that by delving deep into his journals, he can return to his past and alter key moments in a bid to ensure a positive future outcome. But it doesn't work, and the rest of the film is stretched to infinity as Evan repeatedly fails to grasp the fallacy of his endeavours. At times it's so ridiculous that you half expect Kutcher to turn to the camera and tell the audience it's been punk'd. If only.
If it starred a young Jack Nicholson at his best, 'The Butterfly Effect' would still have been poor. With Kutcher in the lead role, it's atrocious. Demi Moore's toy boy has zero range, and for a man who is 6' 3" in height, he is pitifully short on presence. Around him, Amy Smart does her best as Kayleigh, but the child and teenage actors here are as good as it gets.
If you want plot twists and mind-bending, just stick to 'Usual Suspects' and 'Memento'. If you want Kutcher doing something he can't mess up, stick to MTV.