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YMMV / The Butterfly Effect

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  • Acceptable Targets:
    • Fraternity members. In the first altered timeline, Evan winds up as a member of a stereotypical group of wealthy, womanizing frat boys who openly cheat on exams and treat their pledges like shit; it's hard to blame his former roommate, Thumper, when he refuses to even speak to him anymore.
    • The Aryan Brotherhood members Evan encounters in prison are, unsurprisingly, among the most overtly villainous characters in the film.
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  • Critical Dissonance: Critics generally hated it, but audiences were kinder and it made its money back several times over. This can be seen in the Rotten Tomatoes scores: 33% for critics versus 81% for audiences.
  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: One of the major criticisms of the film was that it was so phenomenally depressing that by the end most of the audience was wishing they could spontaneously commit suicide too. Evan has to cope with being molested by his friend's father (and then attacked by his own father while the latter is institutionalized), accidentally blowing up a woman and her baby with a stick of dynamite, having his beloved dog burned to death, and watching his best friend lose his mind...and that's just the first half-hour of the movie!
  • Family-Unfriendly Aesop: Depending on the ending, everything bad that happens to you and everyone you love can be traced back to simply being the kind of person they would love, or having been born in the first place. Sometimes you're just not meant to be with the person you love, not because you're incompatible or because they're a bad person, but because misery is destined to follow them everywhere and they're incapable of being in a fulfilling relationship. The lesson of the bleaker director's cut could even be interpreted as "if you're a burden to people you should just kill yourself so they don't have to deal with you, their lives will be better for it."
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  • Fetish Retardant: The glass table sex scene in Revelations.
  • First Installment Wins: Well... there are two obscure direct-to-DVD sequels.
  • Just Here for Godzilla: Considering the massive hatedom of Ashton Kutcher, quite a few people have noted that there's a certain perverse pleasure to watching this film, and getting to discover over and over again what horrible situation he's landed himself in this time. Whatever else can be said of him, he actually gives a fairly nuanced performance in this film.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Tommy crosses this when he sets Evan's dog on fire.
  • Narm: The whole film is filled with this, apart from also being a relentless Deus Angst Machina. Highlights include:
    • Any time something particularly horrible happens to Evan.
    • Kid!Tommy's constant cursing and his vulgar MST-ing on the Gluttony victim from Se7en in the cinema. In the same scene, he also beats up a guy twice his size in the cinema after witnessing Evan and Kayleigh (who is his sister, by the way) kiss.
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    • Being molested by a friend's father is a realistic source of angst. Blowing up a woman and her child with a stick of dynamite is like something out of a Tex Avery cartoon.
    • Evan accidentally crushing a granola bar with his prosthetic hand.
    • The deadly serious use of the word "fuck bag" to defuse a child abuse situation.
    • The reaction of the cell-mate to the magically appearing "stigmata".
    • The ending of the director's cut, where Evan goes back in time to strangle himself in the womb as a fetus. That's not tragic, that's twistedly amazing.
    • The sheer amount of crap in Evan's life even before he starts trying to fix it, which just gets impossible to take seriously.
    • The Stock Scream used by Kayleigh when Lenny kills Tommy in one of the alternate timelines.
    • "Oh, Mrs. Bosweeelllll..."
    • In several of the revisited memories, Evan's dialogue lapses into rather verbose, melodramatic monologuing, which make for rather jarring shifts from the otherwise fairly naturalistic dialogue in the rest of the film, and which are made extra narmy by having a 7-year-old actor deliver lines like "This is the very moment of your reckoning. In the next 30 seconds you're gonna open up one of two doors. The first door will forever traumatize your own flesh and blood." with a straight face.
  • Nightmare Fuel: Whenever Evan has a Deadly Nosebleed due to the memories being re-written in his brains.
  • Nightmare Retardant: The scene where Evan wakes up with no arms. Also counts as hideously painful Narm in some scenes. And sweet Jesus, did we mention the granola bar thing? Well, we'll mention it again.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Hey, it's Percy Jackson! And Leech! And Foggy! Also, the Blob is Evan's cellmate Carlos.
  • Special Effects Failure: The visual effects for Evan's amputated arms are extremely ropey. Fortunately they're only visible in one scene and are otherwise covered by prosthetics.
  • Tear Jerker: The Director's Cut ending. Evan kills himself in his mother's womb, and everybody else gets a happy ending.
  • Vindicated by History: Five years after release, Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian argued that the main reason for the film's critical drubbing at the time of release was because of Ashton Kutcher's public persona, and that "slowly but surely, it will float up to B-picture classic status."
  • What an Idiot!: The recurrent "Don't try to change the past" message is somewhat dampened by the fact that many of Evan's woes come from him making painfully stupid decisions that could easily have been avoided if he'd bothered to think them through. He doesn't consider that putting dynamite in a neighbor's mailbox might somehow go wrong; he doesn't think about the possible repercussions of beating a man to death; he thinks that he can permanently stop an abusive pedophile by giving him a verbal beatdown and redirecting the creep's abuse to someone Evan knows for a fact was also affected by the creep (something Evan doesn't even bother correcting the second time he redoes that part of his life); he doesn't hesitate to hand a knife to a kid without properly explaining what the kid's supposed to do with the knife, then rendering the knife-giving worse than pointless...
  • The Woobie:
    • Evan is molested by Kayleigh's pedophile father, accidentally kills a mother and her baby, lost his best friend (who couldn't cope with the guilt and eventually became a chronically depressed recluse), loses his arms in another timeline and sees his girlfriend connect with the best friend instead until Evan tries to commit suicide (which fails), he suffers repeated brain damage every time he resets the timeline until he's nearly hospitalized as a vegetable, and that's just a selection of his crappy, crappy life.
    • Kayleigh (along with her brother Tommy) were also molested by her father, and she went through most of the other hardships that Evan faced. In one timeline she becomes a drug-addicted, self-loathing, streetwalker. In another her boyfriend beats her psychotic brother to death in front of her. This is later subverted when Evan ensures that she and her brother will live a happy life being raised by her mother, with no memories of the alternate timelines.


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