Kutcher fails in dramatic role

KRT Campus

It’s tough to swallow the premise of “The Butterfly Effect,” in which an extremely intelligent guy, played by Ashton Kutcher, finds a way to alter the past. Come on, Ashton Kutcher, intelligent?

Kutcher is one reason that “Butterfly” fails. He’s adept at light comedy. However, he shows no aptitude for the more serious role of a disturbed man who keeps traveling into the past to change significant events, and returns each time with new, more troubling facial hair.

As if to erase our memory of “Dude, Where’s My Car?” and “That `70s Show,” Kutcher spends the whole movie with the same, serious facial expression and delivers his lines in a monotone.

If Kutcher didn’t try tackling new things, then he might soon be asking, “Dude, where’s my career?” So give him credit.

Same goes for director and screenwriters J. Mackye Gruber and Eric Bress, but their efforts also come up short.

Gruber and Bress, who wrote the success “Final Destination 2,” want to say something about the lingering pain of childhood trauma, but they don’t incorporate any fresh insights into that pain.

So, they pour on new forms of exploitive violence, as if making the movie more unpleasant is the same as making it more meaningful.

Bashings with two-by-fours, dogs burned alive, kiddie porn, Gruber and Bress up the nastiness ante without connecting any of it to their central idea. The result is a slasher flick that thinks it’s art.

There is a kernel of a good idea here – each time Kutcher goes back to alter his past, his tiny changes create a ripple effect that alters the lives of others.

I like that “It’s Not a Wonderful Life” notion, but Gruber and Bress don’t do anything with it. As well, the script offers so many reversals of fortune for each character that it all seems random and meaningless.

Why should we worry if Kutcher’s girlfriend becomes a crack whore after one trip back in time, when we know he’ll fix her life the next time out?

The result is a movie that says the exact opposite of what it’s trying to say: Life’s tragedies aren’t important because everything can be fixed.