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New Line Home Cinema presents
The Butterfly Effect (2004)

"I can fix this".
- Evan Treborn (Ashton Kutcher)

Review By: Jeff Rosado   
Published: July 14, 2004

Stars: Ashton Kutcher, Amy Smart, Eric Stoltz
Other Stars: Melora Walters, Elden Henson, William Lee Scott, John Patrick Amedori, Logan Lerman, Sarah Widdows, Jake Kaese, Cameron Bright, Jesse James, Kevin G. Schmidt
Director: Eric Bress, J. Mackye Gruber

Manufacturer: Laser Pacific
MPAA Rating: R for strong language, partial nudity, adult situations, violence, sexual content, brief drug use
Run Time: 01h:59m:31s
Release Date: July 06, 2004
UPC: 794043717321
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B CAA+ A-

DVD Review

"I wish I had a time machine,
I could make myself go back until the day I was born..."


-Randy Goodrum

If you were to take a poll amongst movie fans about what their favorite type of storyline is, I've no doubt that the "what if" or time travel concept would rank very high. Seems no matter how old you are or how content you become with the blessings you've been bestowed, there's always a twinge of regret lurking in the back of your mind: What if I'd taken that risk or gone after that girl? Or sometimes, you twist things around and wonder about those close to you: What if my best friend and I had met under different circumstances? Would our emotional attachment be just as strong? Imagine if I hadn't said hello to him or her. No matter how you slice thoughts of an alternate universe, it's endlessly fascinating.

From the timeless fantasy of Back to the Future to darker tales like The Thirteenth Floor, the allure of time travel more often than not, rarely falters as movie entertainment. Unfortunately, The Butterfly Effect doesn't achieve the heights of those films. Though compelling in the early going, it ultimately collapses under the weight of its over-ambitious storyline.

Evan Treborn (Ashton Kutcher) is a gifted psychology major, an achievement made all the more remarkable considering his troubled adolescence, marred by a baffling medical condition that even his family doctor was at a loss to explain. At times, Evan would be in the middle of something only to blackout and come to, minutes after the fact; like a cassette tape being fast-forwarded.

It's been seven years since such an episode, but one night, Evan decides to take out a dusty journal kept at the suggestion of a psychiatrist to read for his date (I know girls love that sensitive, artistic side, but I would have put on a Marvin Gaye record myself). While revisiting the scribblings of his past, Evan finds himself back in time reliving a painful, pivotal moment involving childhood friends Lenny, Tommy, and Cayleigh. Upon returning to present-day surroundings, Evan decides to use this gift to change the past and make life better for his cronies in the here and now. Instead, danger ensues as Evan not only places his future in question but jeopardizes the lives of those closest to him.

Despite an occasional draggy first half, The Butterfly Effect nevertheless kept my attention as it slowly and effectively worked its way toward the resolution of Evan's mysterious maladies. But after a promising start, too many outrageous shifts and Dramatic! Plot! Twists! left me mentally exhausted. Although I can't recommend the film as a whole, Kutcher's intense, admirable performance hints at future promise. Supporting performances by Amy Smart (as the grown-up Cayleigh), Melora Walters, Eric Stoltz (memorably creepy as Cayleigh's abusive dad) and Logan Lerman (absolutely superb as Evan's younger incarnation; definitely a child actor to watch) are notable, the special effects are impressive, and Matthew F. Leonetti's moody visuals are hypnotic. If only co-directors/screenwriters Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber had exercised restraint, cut one or two alternative plotlines and trimmed the proceedings from there, they could have had a film that succeeded as a whole, rather than ending up with what can kindly be dubbed as a highlights reel.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Excepting a couple of catalog titles where their manufacturer most likely didn't have the best elements to work with anyway, New Line's DVD product has been synonymous with quality; Butterfly keeps that streak intact. A cinematographic tour-de-force with all it's changing colors and multi-filtered sequences, the picture remains remarkably consistent throughout. Even in the most desaturated time trips, it never loses anything: sharpness, black levels, naturalness, detail and all. An impeccable piece of work.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes
DTSEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Making the mistake of watching this in the wee hours, I'll just bet that my neighbors were under the assumption they'd Butterfly-ed back in time to World War I or II only to awaken and go, Oh, it's our movie crazy guy just having fun, again.

But can you really get a better aural recommendation than that? I mean, I just had this sucker only a third of the way cranked and KA-BOOM, like A Day in the Life meets the sound design of Being John Malkovich. Atmospheric and aggressive with forceful low end, perfect separation (the split surrounds are some of the best I've ever heard) and vivid resonance from all areas, here's another submission for the demo-material hall of fame—and this is just the Dolby Digital incarnation I'm praising here; there's a DTS option, but it's a tad too shrill (and surprisingly, not as forceful given their standards); my perfect rating goes to the DD 5.1 version.

Audio Transfer Grade: A+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 21 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
7 Deleted Scenes
2 Alternate Endings
Screenplay
Storyboard
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Co-directors/screenwriters
Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: 01h:27m:24s

Extra Extras:
  1. Beyond The Movie Featurettes:
    - Science and Psychology of The Chaos Theory

    - History and Allure of Time Travel

  2. Creative Process and Visual Effects Documentaries
  3. Storyboard Gallery
  4. Director's Cut and Theatrical Version of the film
  5. Fact Track
Extras Review: Like any other New Line Inifilm project, Effect is stoked to capacity with extras. Standing tallest amongst them is a terrific commentary track pairing co-directors/screenplay authors Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber (only accessible via the director's cut version on this double-sided disc). Kind of a rare bird when you like two hours of chat better than you do the participant's cinematic baby, but these guys came ultra-prepared. Since their pet project took six years to reach fruition, there's hardly any dead air thanks to a multitude of tales from both technical and artistic standpoints continuously welling forth. From the duo's impressions of Kutcher's dramatic abilities (only to be pleasantly surprised by his comedic skills on television's That 70s Show later on) to how wardrobe can enhance traits of a character's personality (the waitress incarnation of Cayleigh supplemented by her frumpy winter coat) to why some of the extended material didn't work its way into the theatrical version, Bress and Gruber are never at a loss for words. Additionally, they sound like really nice, down-to-earth guys with a refreshing lack of ego and a passion for their craft that will serve them well down the line; most certainly a collaborative duo worth monitoring.

Other bonus highlights include The History and Allure (13m:25s), a retrospective of time travel films featuring interviews with AFI's Ken Wlaschina and Michael Pogorzelski from AMPAS giving a Cliff Notes history of classic genre entries, ranging from 1933's Berkely Square to 2002's Minority Report; The Science and Psychology of the Chaos Theory (08m:55s), a technically deep overview of a topic that affects our everyday lives whether we know it or not (featuring contributions from noted psychotherapists Constance Kaplan, MFT, and John D. Broc, PH.D). The Creative Process (17m:50s) offers a well made series of behind-the-scenes vignettes giving insights into the making of Butterfly, including the real-life inspiration that fueled the incest storylines; Kutcher's throwing himself into two month's of psychology studies; and how New Line became the filmmakers' heroes.

Also included: Eleven Storyboard Gallery examples featuring side-by-side comparisons of key scenes from the film; seven deleted sequences; two alternate endings; a terrific Visual Effects documentary (16m:05s) that will please How'd They Do That geeks; a Fact Track (which offers patient viewers an opportunity to see much of the content in all of the above features in bite-sized snippets during playback of the director's cut); and the film's original trailer. For the DVD-ROM enabled, the festival of bonuses continues with the appropriately titled Script to Screen, which allows you to view the film with its dialogue; a Commentary Digest that cranks the aural mainstay of DVD up a few notches by including access to a wide variety of production documents relating to the project; 70 still images; Scene Medleys consisting of montages from the film arrranged by concept; and the usual combinations of exclusive and promotional content New Line provides via their Inifilm discs.

Lordy, seems about the only thing missing is a huggable, kissable Ashton poster for the girls!

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

Despite an engaging cast, great special effects and superb extras, unless your threshold for over-the-top horror is larger than mine, this Butterfly (Effect) is one you might not want to catch.

 


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