The Butterfly Effect was one of the true surprises of 2004. Say what you will but Ashton Kutcher was actually quite good in the film and the story kept you guessing throughout. It took the tired time travel concept and put a pretty interesting spin on it and the end result was an enjoyable and stylish thriller – and now here's the unnecessary sequel!
Julie (Erica Durance) is celebrating her birthday by taking a trip to the beach with her boyfriend Nick (Eric Lively) and their friends Trevor (Dustin Milligan) and Amanda (Gina Holden). Julie wanted to move to New York to pursue a career in photography but Nick convinced her to stick around and while things might seem okay on the surface, she does harbor some resentment towards him for this. Just as she's about to have a heart to heart with her boy toy, however, her cell phone goes off and she gets called in to work. Everyone packs up their gear and they get back in the car and head back into town. As Julie unbuckles her seatbelt to take some pictures in the car Nick blows a tire and the foursome slide across the highway just as a massive eighteen wheeler comes into the other lane. Collision and carnage ensues and Nick appears to be the only one left alive.
Nick wakes up in the hospital where his mom tells the nurse that he's only dreaming – but the accident did happen, it's just that he keeps reliving it when he sleeps. From there we skip ahead a year and Nick's been suffering from migraines since that fateful day when he lost his girlfriend and his pals. One day he takes out the old photograph of the four of them and, as in the first movie, it starts to morph and before you know it, Nick's traveling back and forth between different variations on his life and he ends up having to try to save Julie, Trevor and Amanda before it's too late but doing so might screw things up worse than they already were.
The Butterfly Effect 2 lacks the scope and ambition of the first film in that the story limits the time travel aspect to roughly a year or so. While part of this could have been to keep the film within the realm of its obviously lower budget it does hurt the film as we don't bounce around as much with Nick and we don't get to know him as well. Adding to the problem in that regard is a lot of what we learn about Nick doesn't really endear him to us – his actions are fairly selfish and you start to wonder if he really deserves Julie after all, even if he could save her from that accident. There are a few nice twists here that prevent the film from being dull but it more or less repeats the ideas from the first film without a lot of the substance that made that movie worth watching in the first place.
As far as the performances go, the acting in the movie isn't bad at all. Durance is likeable enough and easy on the eyes while Lively doesn't do a bad job with the material that he has to work with. The supporting actors are also fine. The movie also looks quite good in that the cinematography is nice and while the special effects aren't on the same level as the film that came before it, they're definitely passable save for a few cringe inducing CGI bits here and there. When you don't care about the characters, however, you don't have much to invest in the movie making the outcome all the less important. Had more time been put into the script this could have been a decent sequel to a really good film – instead it's just another example of a mediocre cash in. It's worth a look for a few shining moments and some decent ideas that are never really fully fleshed out, but it certainly resonates as a misfire rather than the hit that the filmmaker's were obviously trying to find.
The anamorphic 1.85.1 widescreen transfer for this release is quite nice, without any print damage to note save for some very grain. Color reproduction is strong and the black levels are stable and deep but don't bury the fine background detail. Flesh tones look lifelike and natural and aside from some mild edge enhancement and a few scenes that do contain some slightly noticeable edge enhancement, this is a very good transfer.
You've got your choice of watching the film in either an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track or an English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track with an English closed captioning option and subtitles available in English and Spanish. The 5.1 track is the way to go if you've got the hardware to make that happen as it fills things out quite well and adds some fun directional effects through the rear channels at a few key moments in the film. Dialogue is clean and clear on both tracks and there aren't any issues with hiss or distortion to complain about. Bass response is nice and punchy and the levels are properly balanced throughout. A few scenes could have had a bit more aggression in specific channels but other than that things do sound quite nice on this release.
Director John R. Leonetti and co-producer Michael Stirling provide a reasonably interesting commentary track that spends a lot of time explaining how the shoot was altered from their original vision to fit the rather brief twenty day shooting schedule that was allowed them. They cover casting, shooting in Vancouver and having to make changes because of some ugly weather that they ran into as well as some of the effects work. They seem to have really enjoyed working on the film and obviously take some pride in their efforts and this does prove to be a fairly successful track in that it's paced well and it gets a lot of information across quite effectively. It won't likely change your opinion of the film, but that shouldn't surprise anyone.
From there we're treated to Altering Reality: On The Set Of The Butterfly Effect 2 which is a fifteen-minute look behind the scenes of the production as it was being shot in Vancouver. There's some interesting behind the scenes footage in here as well as some typical talking head style interview spots that don't really add much of anything to the proceedings. If you dug the film, check this out, it won't kill you but this isn't essential viewing by any stretch.
Rounding out the supplements are trailers for The Butterfly Effect and The Butterfly Effect 2 as well as a few other New Line DVD releases, some animated menus, and chapter stops for the feature film.
The problem with The Butterfly Effect 2 is that it doesn't add anything to what the first film accomplished so well. The acting and direction is fine and there's nothing glaringly wrong with the film, it just doesn't have much to offer other than another take on material that is just too familiar. New Line's DVD looks and sounds nice enough and the extras are okay but the movie doesn't have much in the replay value making this one worth a rental for the curious but not much more than that.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.