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The Butterfly Effect Reviews

A somber fable about the far-reaching and unforeseen consequences that ripple out from every act, screenwriters Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber's joint directing debut falters under its weighty dramatic burdens. Seven-year-old Evan Treborn (Logan Lerman) lives with his hardworking single mother (Melora Walters), pines for his institutionalized dad (Callum Keith Rennie) and pals around with sensitive fat kid Lenny (Jake Kaese) and pretty Kayleigh Miller (Sarah Widdows). Kayleigh lives with her divorced father (Eric Stoltz) and brother, Tommy (Cameron Bright), a delinquent whose sociopathic potential is already apparent. Evan is subject to blackouts that frighten his mother and leave holes in his memory: What possessed him to draw a picture in class of himself standing over a pile of corpses with a bloody knife? What happened in the Miller's basement the day Mr. Miller persuaded Evan, Kayleigh and Tommy to make home movies? Why did Evan's father try to kill his son? As 13-year-olds, Tommy (Jesse James) instigates a prank that goes so horribly wrong that Lenny (Kevin G. Schmidt) is permanently traumatized; Evan can't remember what happened. Later, Evan (John Patrick Amedori) and Kayleigh's (Irene Gorovaia) first tentative kiss incites Tommy to exact a revenge that persuaded Evan's mom to move away; Evan can't remember it, either. In the present day, brilliant psychology major Evan (Ashton Kutcher) is reading one of the journals he's kept since childhood when he's catapulted into a vivid waking dream of the past. He tracks down Kayleigh (Amy Smart) to compare memories, and finds her working in a diner, depressed and defeated. Their awkward encounter drives her to suicide and, convinced that what he experienced wasn't a dream, Evan tries to re-enter key traumatic junctures in his past in hopes of filling in the holes in his memory and fixing the things that went so terribly wrong. But every attempt fails: Nothing works out better, just badly in different ways. Bress and Gruber's attempt to make a spooky moral tale in the style of Twilight Zone is ambitious, but their deeply disturbing material — murder, suicide, insanity, kiddie porn, animal abuse and more — mixes uncomfortably with the film's time-travel conceit, which requires some serious suspension of disbelief. Kutcher's lightweight presence makes surrendering to that suspension doubly difficult. His performance isn't terrible, but the brilliant, bewildered, increasingly desperate Evan is the film's center, and grounding its flights of fantasy in rock-solid emotional reality is more than Kutcher can manage.