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Review - The Butterfly Effect (DVD-2004)
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The Butterfly Effect(DVD-2004)

New Line Home Entertainment

Reviewed by Dennis Kwiatkowski

The Butterfly Effect, just released on DVD, tells the story of a young man who, in order to deal with disturbing memories from his childhood, finds he is able to travel back and forth in time. Moreover, in going back in time, he is able to alter unpleasant aspects of his past, which leads to unexpected and surprising consequences.

The Butterfly Effect was a bit of a sleeper-hit when released theatrically. Made for a small budget of $13 million, the film went on to gross over $79 million worldwide, bringing a fine profit to distributor, New Line Cinema.

The film was also a bit of a departure for its star, Ashton Kutcher, an actor known more for his work in teenage comedy films. But here, in a more somber and serious role, Kutcher proves to be an actor of surprising agility. Even more impressive is Amy Smart, who plays Kutcher’s childhood friend and lifelong love. The script call for unrelenting versatility in her character, as changes made in Kutcher’s past have an altering effect on her character’s own life and future.

Ray Bradbury’s famous short story, ‘A Sound of Thunder’ serves as an unofficial inspiration for this film’s story about time-travel’s effect. Another influence is modern-day Chaos Theory which asserts that small changes in a given system can, over time, produce profound effects. But it is the allure of time-travel itself and consideration of the age-old human reflection: “What if I had only done things differently in my life?” that gives The Butterfly Effect its intriguing thrust. That, and the realistic and sometimes brutal impact of the story itself.

The Butterfly Effect is not always a pleasant film. Indeed, several studios shied away from its depiction of some of the harsher realities of life. New Line Cinema dared to pick up the project and make the film, to its credit. Whatever flaws the film contains, it is certainly never boring and its premise is thoroughly thought out.

Extras on the disc include the director’s cut of the film in addition to the theatrically released version. The director’s cut also contains a surprising and controversial alternate ending, which is satisfying thematically, though this reviewer preferred the well-executed theatrical version ending. Also included is a director’s commentary, two making-of documentaries (one of which details the evolution of the superb time-travel special-effect, which was ingeniously achieved within economic constraint).

There are also two absolutely splendid short documentaries, one on Chaos Theory itself (which explains the Butterfly Effect) and the other ruminating on the appeal of time-travel. All of this is packaged within New Line Home Entertainment’s Infinifilm process—which allows user-friendly access to the disc’s various features incorporated within, if desired, a second viewing of the film itself.

Like Vanilla Sky, or the more recent Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, another economical, thoughtful, imaginative film which paid off at the international box office, The Butterfly Effect offers somewhat of a home-viewing antidote to the onslaught of Hollywood summer blockbusters currently in season. It’s a complex, intriguing offering which shows that a modest production budget need not necessarily restrict either a film’s imagination or its visceral impact.

2005 Dennis Kwiatkowski/ Celluloid Dreams

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