ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  e. bress & j.m. gruber

RATED  -  r

GENRE  -  drama

LENGTH  -  113 minutes

RELEASED  -  23 january 2004

DISTRIBUTOR  -  new line cinema

OFFICIAL SITE  -  butterfly effect

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $13,000,000
the butterfly effect - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from the butterfly effect at

buy the dvd from the butterfly effect at

a man discovers he can travel back in time by reading his journals.


poster from the butterfly effect
buy the poster

premiered at the 2004 sundance film festival.


picture from the butterfly effect

picture from the butterfly effect

picture from the butterfly effect

picture from the butterfly effect


one out of four possible stars

In his first dive into dramatic territory, Ashton Kutcher has chosen quite a bleak picture in which to display the more serious side of his on-screen abilities. It often follows that a film star who wishes to break free of their "usual" feature film fare will grab something so polar opposite from what they usually take on that the nature of the role itself seems to interfere with the actor's performance. Though it is safe to say Viewers of this film probably won't be burdened with comparing Kutcher's performance to his comedic ones since his role in The Butterfly Effect is executed to the best of his abilities and to the benefit of audience viewers wishing believability from his character.

While the plot and nature of the film veer far into the territory of "difficult to believe," the decent special effects should make up for any mind wanderings over the course of viewing the film as the movie is shiny and slickly made, with an emphasis on entertaining the MTV generation. One of the only bothersome elements is the graphic violence that litters many of the scenes and a certain number of sequences near the beginning which make you want to turn away from the screen. That and Kutcher's minute-by-minute hair style changes. It's not enough to change his clothing. The hair-dressers on the film must have been working overtime because Kutcher's hair changes as often as Reece Witherspoon changes her outfits in the Legally Blonde series.

But in trying to get away from comedy has Kutcher gone too far in the other direction? It wasn't as if he had been pigeon-holed into comedic roles over the course of a decades-long career. A comedy with a heavy dose of drama might have been a more tolerable first step into the dramatic arena as this film is quite dark and morbid. Kutcher's choosing of this role can be likened to Meg Ryan's shocking turn in last year's In the Cut. This film is just far more depressing than it perhaps needed to be.

But what is to be expected from directors Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber, the dark minds who brought us the rather grim Final Destination 2? If one were to ignore the leaps of logic needed to process some of the plot in this film, something quite strange might be observed. Instead of shoring up the plot so that it was steady enough to let the audience forget about its believability throughout the film, the logic seems hastily designed and poorly fashioned, placing far too much importance on the characters.

Which, had the actors been true artists of their craft, the plot could have been dismissed as a necessary evil that existed only to bolster the character developments. But Kutcher just isn't ready to handle the type of dramatic fever required by such a film. His performance is credible, but it's not wholly engrossing. And while Amy Smart performs to what appears to be the best of her ability, her role as Kutcher's love interest seems a rather stagnant repeating of her usually unremarkable roles. The only thing she can be counted upon to deliver is an uninspired performance, though had her dialogue been more energetically written, her performance might have had that needed spark.

Elements such as cinematography and score are nothing that one wouldn't expect from a psychological thriller, thought it seems at times that a rather large lot of "standard" cinematic techniques are trotted out along with a double dose of perfunctory dialogue that could have been written by anyone who's seen a few thrillers. The end result is a film with a decent premise whose execution is flawed from a lack of attention paid to making sure the interesting plot was as steady as it could be. Psychological thrillers are usually prime targets for audience members who enjoy "ripping" apart a film's plot, but finding the inconsistencies in Butterfly's presentation doesn't require too much work.

A final comment on this slick yet rickety film is on its length. The filmmakers exhaust the audience's interest in the psychology of what Kutcher's character is capable of doing about half-way into the film. Even if the editor had chopped the film down to about ninety minutes (it's around 113 minutes currently), the film still would have dragged over its entire second half given the reverse story-telling (the climax is shown at the beginning of the film making the characters' "journey" the whole reason for the film's existence).

The strange thing about it is that the film starts off at a run, exhausts its audience by the mid-point, and then expects viewers to feel satisfied with predictable dialogue and characters. It's harsh to place the blame for the film's length on the actors, as such a great burden was placed upon them by the directors, but neither should the blame rest entirely with those behind the camera. There are faults on many levels in this movie and to enjoy the film, one must simply not hold the bar very high.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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