Directed by John R. Leonetti
Distributed by New Line Home Entertainment
Few films that have come out in recent years have told such a complete story as 2004’s The Butterfly Effect. While some might have scoffed at Ashton Kutcher’s acting abilities, I found his portrayal of Evan Treborn completely believable and quite endearing. The numerous twists and turns kept me riveted, and the film even landed on my Top Five list for the year. So while I didn’t feel there was any reason for a Part 2, I do admit that because of my overall fondness for time travel stories, I was curious to see what kind of scenario screenwriter Michael J. Weiss would concoct for the follow-up. I’m sad to say my initial impression was correct — there is no reason for this film to exist.
The Butterfly Effect 2 begins on Julie’s 24th birthday. She, her boyfriend Nick, and their friends Trevor and Amanda are celebrating by having a cozy bonfire on the beach. Julie (Durance) has something to tell Nick (Lively), but before she can, he gets called in to work. She’s already miffed at him for convincing her to stay with him rather than pursue her dream of moving to New York and becoming a hotshot photographer, but as we know, love conquers all, and soon our foursome are on the long and winding road back to town. Julie (in one of the most blatant examples of foreshadowing you’ll ever see) takes off her seatbelt to snap some pictures of her buddies in the backseat, and at that exact moment one of Nick’s tires blows out. They wind up horizontal across the highway with an 18-wheeler bearing down on them. A nicely staged accident follows, and the next thing we see is sole survivor Nick twitching madly in his hospital bed. Not to worry, his mom tells the nurse, it’s just a nightmare.
Move ahead to one year later, and we learn that Nick, much like Evan in the first Butterfly Effect, has been suffering from monstrous migraine headaches and nosebleeds for most of his life. He clearly hasn’t adjusted so well to the loss of his lady love and their best friends. He stares at the group photo of the four of them taken that fateful day, and it begins to shake and blur. I’m sure you can guess the outcome. Yes, Julie, Trevor, and Amanda are all saved, but things aren’t quite as perfect as Nick would like them to be. He and Trevor are in trouble at work, and Julie resents having to take on menial jobs to make ends meet. Oh, and that “thing” Julie had to tell him that day … well, that didn’t work out either. What’s a fellow to do? Why just shake, rattle, and roll another photograph, and BAM! Nick becomes instant yuppie scum — but with a really bitchin’ expensive sports car and a girl who’s hot for his ass but isn’t Julie. Of course, again, things are fucked up — it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature you know — and poor Nick is left to try and try again to remedy the situation and win back Julie’s affections.
The key to what made the first Butterfly Effect so interesting was the way its storyline interweaved the main characters back and forth from childhood to adulthood. Evan’s motivations were pure and designed to help everyone around him. He suffered real consequences for his actions. Nick, on the other hand, only seems interested in helping himself, and he winds up looking rather smarmy as a result. He doesn’t treat his condition very seriously, and it’s obvious Julie is much better off without him — even if that does translate into being dead. Adding to the film’s flaws is the filmmakers’ decision to keep all the time travel within the same one-year period; it results in a closed-off feeling that makes everything that happens much too predictable. And the attempt to unite the two films via a reference to Jason Treborn, Evan’s dad, only serves to confuse the issue even further.
The acting in BE2 is passable, but no one is really called upon to stretch their wings too much. Durance’s Julie has one scene where she gets to look and act differently from her norm, but otherwise, everyone just plays the same version of themselves over and over again. It’s a far cry from BE1 with its wide range of time periods and character lifestyle changes. I realize I’m doing a lot of comparing the two films, and that’s not entirely fair, but it’s unavoidable. Part 2 brings absolutely nothing new to the table so feels like nothing more than a cold rehash of leftovers that should have been just kept on the counter instead of dished up for mass consumption. It’s like having hamburger the day after prime rib; comparisons are inevitable.
New Line does try beef up the package a bit by providing a commentary with director Leonetti and co-producer Michael Stirling. In truth, it’s more entertaining than the film itself. They share lots of tidbits about the filming process, the actors, and the crew and are highly complimentary and appreciative of everyone they worked with. They do tend to go on about the short (20-day) shooting schedule and the cold Vancouver climate, but that’s understandable considering originally the story was set in the spring/summer time frame and a good deal of retooling had to be done on the fly to account for weather conditions. There’s also a relatively dull 15-minute behind-the-scenes featurette that reiterates how condensed the filming had to be (they only had “20 days” in case you missed it the first time). As is often the case with movies like this, everyone involved seemed to think they were working on a much better film. Hopefully they’ll have the chance to do so in the future because it’s apparent that most of them have talent — this just isn’t the proper project to showcase it.
At a couple of points in the film Julie chastises Nick for being “always a salesman.” If New Line hopes to recoup its expenses on The Butterfly Effect 2, they’re going to need to find a Gordon Gekko caliber salesman of their own, but I’m hoping they decide to just cut their losses and look for something else to promote, leaving BE2 in a cocoon somewhere, never to again see the light of day.
Commentary by director John R. Leonetti and co-producer Michael Stirling
“Altering Reality: On the Set of The Butterfly Effect 2” featurette
Trailers for The Butterfly Effect and The Butterfly Effect 2
New Line trailer gallery
1 1/2 out of 5
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