The Butterfly Effect Trilogy
The Butterfly Effect (August 14/16)
The Butterfly Effect casts Ashton Kutcher as Evan Treborn, a troubled young man who discovers that he can travel back in time to events from his childhood and teen years - with his inevitable attempts at making things better having often disastrous results for those around him (hence the title). Though it eventually becomes quite engrossing, The Butterfly Effect suffers from a slow-moving and surprisingly unpleasant opening half hour that holds the viewer at arms length from the material. There reaches a point, however, at which the picture starts to become more and more compelling, with the increased attention given to Evan's time-travel shenanigans playing a key role in triggering the impressive turnaround. Kutcher's solid work as the movie's earnest protagonist heightens the movie's progressively involving vibe, to be sure, while Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber's screenplay effectively balances the narrative's time-shifting elements with smaller, character-based moments - with the most obvious example of the latter an ongoing emphasis on Evan's troubled relationship with Amy Smart's Kayleigh. And while the film's overlong running time remains an issue from start to finish (ie most scenes feel longer than necessary and the whole thing could've used tightening), The Butterfly Effect is, generally speaking, an above-average time travel picture that ultimately utilizes (and exploits) its out-there premise quite nicely.
The Butterfly Effect 2 (August 15/16)
An abominable, pointless sequel, The Butterfly Effect 2 follows Eric Lively's Nick Larson as he discovers that, by staring intently at a photograph, he's able to travel back to an exact moment in time and change the future - with this gift/curse ultimately wreaking havoc on his job and his relationship with his girlfriend (Erica Durance's Julie). It's ultimately rather shocking just how terrible and incompetent The Butterfly Effect 2 reveals itself to be, as the movie, which contains only a passing reference to its far superior predecessor, is primarily concerned with the central character's far-from-interesting career and the degree to which his newfound powers affect it - which paves the way for a series of interminable, endless sequences wherein Nick deals with obnoxious coworkers, a demanding boss, and even ruthless investors. The viewer's ongoing efforts at working up an ounce of interest in the narrative's happenings fall continuously flat, and it doesn't help, certainly, that Lively delivers a charmless and hopelessly bland turn as the movie's far-from-sympathetic protagonist. Scripter Michael D. Weiss' attempts at echoing the original film's self-sacrifice conclusion are laughable and ineffective, to say the least, with the end result an astonishingly misguided followup that bears few of the elements that made the superior first movie such a success.
The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations (August 16/16)
A very mild improvement over the nigh unwatchable Butterfly Effect 2, The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations follows Chris Carmack's Sam Reide as he uses his time-traveling powers to solve crimes for the police - with problems ensuing as he foolishly uses said powers to change things in his own life. There's little doubt that The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations gets off to a somewhat better-than-expected start, as director Seth Grossman uses the series' basic concept as a jumping-off point for a story that is, at the very least, not a complete retread of the original movie. (It's worth noting, too, that star Carmack delivers a solid performance that's often better than the film deserves.) The problem here, then, is the increasingly tedious bent of Holly Brix's screenplay, with the growing emphasis on Sam's serial-killer investigation paving the way for a fairly tedious and uninvolving midsection (ie the movie starts to feel like a generic network-television cop procedural past a certain point). It subsequently becomes more and more difficult to work up any interest in or sympathy for Sam's exploits, and it goes without saying that the twists contained within the film's third act hardly have the impact that Grossman has likely intended. (It doesn't help that the killer's motives are a stretch, to say the least.) The ending, which blatantly leaves the door open for another sequel, admittedly does an effective job of wrapping things up (and, oddly enough, ensuring that things conclude on a relatively uplifting note), but it's ultimately not enough to compensate for what's mostly an uninspired and underwhelming direct-to-video followup.