Movie rides fence to achieve effect

Moviegoers with weak stomachs or criminal tendencies need not line up to see the surprisingly entertaining “The Butterfly Effect.”

A mixture of graphic images and at times over-the-top characterizations help to drive home the less than subtle nature of this film lead by Ashton Kutcher (“Dude, Where’s My Car?”).

“The Butterfly Effect” takes its name from a popular theory of chaos where the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Asia can cause a catastrophic weather event in New York. The theory borders on extreme and so does the movie.

The lives of four youths are followed through a series of events that alter their lives. Early on, the viewer discovers that one of the youths-Evan- suffers from blackouts that cause him to not remember the events that occur.

After stumbling upon journals he has kept, a college-aged Evan (Kutcher), discovers that he can revisit and alter his past by focusing on the major events in his journal entries. At this point, some sense of logic and perception of time must be left at the door.

Evan continually tries to improve the lives of those around him while finding answers to the holes in his memory caused by the blackouts. The audience must sit through often perverse alternate realities and violent situations as Evan copes with his abilities.

Meanwhile, “The Butterfly Effect” manages to tackle pedophilia, suicide, cruelty to animals, neo-nazism and more with all the tact and sensitivity of a horror film. But more can not be expected from the same writing team that brought “Final Destination 2” to theaters.

Much effort is taken into developing the characters into completely different personalities to suit each reality. Despite this effort, weak dialogue makes the characters more one-dimensional than they should have been.

Kutcher with Amy Smart (“Road Trip”) as his love interest manages to shine in an uncharacteristically serious role for the actor.

Ultimately, the filmmakers pull together their desire to shock the audience and tell a complex, compelling story to provide a more than decent movie.

“The Butterfly Effect” tries so hard to straddle the line between character-driven and event-driven that it falls short on both ends. Luckily, it has enough of both elements and a strong enough cast to dominate whatever gray area of quality filmmaking that it inhabits.

Grade: B

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