Butterfly effect

Rated 3.0

Ray Bradbury’s classic sci-fi cautionary tale of the perils of time travel finally makes it to theaters after sitting on the shelf for three years. I’m actually surprised that it wasn’t dumped off on the Sci-Fi Channel, where it would have looked completely at home, with barely competent CGI effects and some perplexing visual choices (having actors march in place in front of a green screen is so awkward that it seems deliberate, as if the director was trying to reference the slapjack effects of B-movies). But as the action sets in, the lackluster nature of the effects becomes less jarring.

The story is part of the genre’s cultural DNA: a time-traveling safari goes back to prehistoric times to shoot a giant T rex (Allosaur here), doomed to die in the next few moments in a volcanic eruption. Otherwise, nothing must be altered, or it sets up cause-'n'-effect ripples that FUBARs the fabric of time. Of course, some fool has to step off the path and kill a butterfly (but then that eruption would have cooked the butterfly in the same point flash).

Narrative-wise, the scripters have done a competent job of expanding the wan story into feature length, as the travelers discover their error and embark against an ultimate race against time to correct the indiscretion. Although the proceedings tend to bog down in the beginning, the delivery manages with a couple of decent jolts, and maintains a surprising (in a small way) amount of suspense, considering the fact that if their project succeeds; no one who dies in the process really dies. Bonus points pop up late in the film as it offers a sublimely creepy peek beneath the genetic makeup of English women.

Subsequently, if you have a fondness for the mid-'50s stop-motion entries, you should be able to put aside the bookmark effects, and enjoy the trip. Straightforward science fiction films being such a rare bird in the theaters anymore, it’s hard to not give such a moderately competent entry a decent rating.