The Butterfly Effect: Shane Harvey
Owen Gleiberman
January 28, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Butterfly Effect

Current Status
In Season
113 minutes
Wide Release Date
Ashton Kutcher, Amy Smart, Cameron Bright, Elden Henson, Eric Stoltz, Melora Walters
Eric Bress, J. Mackye Gruber
New Line Cinema
Eric Bress, J. Mackye Gruber
Sci-fi and Fantasy, Mystery and Thriller, Drama

We gave it a C-

In The Butterfly Effect, Ashton Kutcher wakes up in a dorm room and discovers that he’s got a pair of stumps where his forearms used to be. ”What the f—!” he exclaims, and if there’s a piece of dialogue this year campier than that, I’d love to hear it. Kutcher doesn’t sound upset, exactly; he sounds punk’d, as if he’d just found himself sleeping next to Bruce Willis or something.

”The Butterfly Effect” is a chain-reaction thriller in which Kutcher keeps diving back into his past and altering some horrendous event (child sexual abuse, a dog set on fire, you get the picture), then shooting into the different future that results from it. He ends up, for a scene or two, as a frat boy, a disabled sad sack, and a prisoner surrounded by thick-chested Aryan rapists. (Talk about punk’d.) Yet nothing in the movie has much consequence, since Kutcher keeps skipping to a new reality before we can figure out what he’s doing in the old one. It’s like he’s trapped in a ”Twilight Zone” theme restaurant.

There’s a good head trip nestled somewhere within the messy, sodden execution of ”The Butterfly Effect”; I kept wondering what a moody grunge technician like David Fincher would have done with it. But Kutcher is the wrong actor to anchor a psychological freak-out. Wearing a scruffy beard and an expression of lost-dog woe, he overacts to signify that he wants to be taken seriously. He may yet turn out to be a movie star, but not if he comes on like Eric Roberts’ kid brother scrambling to measure up.

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