January, 2004: The Butterfly Effect

With the success of the TV sitcom That 70’s Show nearly in the rear-view mirror, early-2000s heartthrob Ashton Kutcher began to flex his muscles by taking lead roles and even producing films; one such film was the 2004 psychological drama, The Butterfly Effect. This movie is proof that, no matter how novel the idea, films always have the potential to fall apart if they don’t get the love and attention they deserve.

Evan (Ashton Kutcher) is a young man with an incredible power: he can go back in time and alter history, effectively changing the lives of anyone that has ever interacted with him. Even though his mother is aware of this at an early age, because his father had the same “illness,” it takes Evan a while to diagnose exactly what’s going on through trial and error.

Early in his life, Evan ran with a group of kids that were pivotal to his development: the cute love interest, the dopey, pudgy friend, and a complete psychopath that manipulated the group through a mix of brute force and mind-games. To distance himself from these influences, Evan and his family move away after a series of tragic events sparked by the group of misfits. We pick back up in his college dorm room; it’s at this time that he decides to alter history, in order to make the lives of his friends better and give himself the life he always wanted. The only trouble is that Chaos Theory doesn’t work the way he expects and there are tragic consequences.

I remember enjoying this film as a teen. While not to the same extent, I had plenty of friends that mirrored the group of kids in this movie and I always wished I could’ve had the power that Evan did to change their fortunes. After returning to it as a jaded adult, I realized that it wasn’t quite what it seemed.

As you can imagine with a protagonist that has the ability to alter his past, the plot for The Butterfly Effect becomes extremely convoluted and problematic after the midpoint. I was constantly asking myself, “How can Evan change his past while only affecting those that are closely related to him?” If we are to believe that a butterfly flapping its wings in Japan can create a hurricane in America, how don’t his actions in the film affect those that went to college with him? They seem to be stationary in the film, a constant group of characters, no matter what Evan decides to do.

On top of that, there are some absolutely abysmal performances in this film. Most movies aren’t made or broken by the acting ability of its cast– most actors can do a serviceable job– but The Butterfly Effect is utterly destroyed by over-acting and overall cheesy choices.

Matt: Watch if you're an edgy teen
Gabe: Don't watch

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