Nearly bad enough to be a good timeIn the States, there used to be a cable show called “Mystery Science Theater 3000” that showed really, really bad movies ―movies with titles like “Teenage Slasher” and “Manos: The Hands of Fate” that looked like they’d made for about the cost of a decent used car. At the bottom of the screen, as though you were sitting behind them in a movie theater, were the silhouettes of the show’s hosts, who cracked jokes at the movie’s expense for its entire running time. (Two of the hosts were puppets, which is neither here nor there.)
Those of us who were part of “MST3K’s” substantial cult following developed the term “MST-worthy” for a movie so hilariously bad that it could support two hours of constant sarcasm. Intense advance warning from the States had it that “The Butterfly Effect,” released there several months ago, was MST-worthy. But I didn’t personally find that to be the case. It certainly is bad, but it’s kind of mesmerizing, too. I don’t know quite what we have here.
The star is Ashton Kutcher, best known for “That ’70s Show” and “Dude, Where’s My Car?” A substantial portion of the film consists of Kutcher ― known to date as an amiable, good-looking doofus ―having one psychological meltdown after another. This is sort of interesting to watch, in the same way that it would be interesting if a Ken doll (of Barbie and Ken) sat up in his dollhouse one morning and started screaming and running around and clawing at his eyes.
Kutcher plays a young psychology student named Evan who, as his academic mentor puts it, has ambitions to “change the way we scientists view memory assimilation.” His interest seems to have its roots in the mysterious blackouts he experienced as a child. Back then, he had plenty of other problems too, including a father in a mental institution whom he’d never met and a sort-of girlfriend whose dad (Eric Stoltz) roped little Evan into a kiddie porn movie along with his own children, and whose brother was a violent psychopath. The girlfriend (played as an adult by Amy Smart) grew up to live a ruined life. But suppose Evan were to find a way to go back in time and save her. Is such a thing possible? Might it involve Evan’s interest in “memory assimilation” and the mysterious neurological condition he inherited from his father? Will there be terrible unforeseen consequences? Probably.
Too many good movies have been made about time travel and alternate realities for “The Butterfly Effect” to get credit for having an interesting idea. If that kiddie-porn scene doesn’t sound like it’s to your taste, don’t worry ―another brutal, noisy trauma comes along every few minutes. A dog is burned alive. A man tries to strangle his son. People are beaten and stabbed to death. A mother and baby are blown up. There’s nothing wrong with extremely violent movies as such, but when they’re made by talentless people they tend to be fairly dispiriting. Directing and writing credits here are shared by persons named Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber; I know nothing about them beyond what’s on their sparse Internet Movie Database pages, but their movie is a hack job that looks like it was made under the influence of crystal meth.
The Butterfly Effect
Drama / English
by David Moll