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New Line Cinema soared to the top of the box office this past weekend with "The Butterfly Effect."

The drama, starring Ashton Kutcher and Amy Smart, brought in $17.1 million over the weekend.

"The Butterfly Effect" takes the lives of four children, whose early lives are marred by tragedy, and has them altered in an effort to improve the present.

The film opens with the unusual childhood of Evan Treborn, (Logan Lerman, portrays the young Evan) who is raised by his mother, Andrea (Melora Walters). Young Evan, who is prone to frequent blackouts, has this unique weirdness brought to light by several twisted drawings he did while in kindergarten. His mother is notified of the drawings, and after noticing young Evan holding a butcher knife in the kitchen (reminiscent of his drawing), he is soon rushed to a psychiatrist.

The psychiatrist, noting Evan's blackouts, recommends the youngster keep a daily journal, so he is aware of what occurs in his life prior to a blackout. These journals begin to grow en mass, and apparently no one else reads them. If so, adults would've been made aware of his friends' pedophile father, George Miller (Eric Stoltz), who had his children, Kayleigh and Tommy Miller, and Evan star in a home-made kiddie porn film.

Following a sequence of unpleasant moments, one involving his friend Lenny, the Treborns move from the neighborhood, with Evan promising to Kayleigh, "I'll come back for you."

Moving forward to the future, while in college (studying psychology no less), Evan (Kutcher, plays the adult Evan) stumbles upon a journal from his younger years, and is drawn back to his past. Evan soon realizes he can rectify the past through different segments of his journals. However, the results don't always work out in his favor. In fact, when Evan returns to the present, it is different than the one he departed from, because his actions have changed everything that happened since.

From one reality to the next, Kayleigh (Amy Smart) goes from sorority sister to scarred prostitute; Evan goes from frat boy to prisoner; Tommy (William Lee Scott) leaps from psychotic to preppie; and Lenny (Elden Henson) has it worse, being a hopeless mental patient to occasional boyfriend of Kayleigh.

In the long run, Evan's journal pages hold the key to a proper, yet realistic, world for everyone involved."The Butterfly Effect" bares its true meaning when Evan finds the right balance and mixture in all four lives.

The first half of the movie slowly develops several sequences to which Evan rushes back to change. What I found enjoyable about this film was the anticipation in how or in what way Evan was going to rectify the past. Every one of those sequences could've been changed in various ways, to which I hope the directors made the correct choices (hopefully their alternative choices will be included in the DVD release). This was one flashback film I didn't mind sitting through, nor did it bring back any horrific memories of past movie failures.

Kutcher, making his dramatic film debut, found the proper vehicle to shed his comedic skin with this movie. He was beyond tolerable, and managed to display some of his comedic charm. The supporting cast, especially Smart, deserve credit in how they handled the abundance of personality changes they had to endure.

Like a moth to a flame, "The Butterfly Effect" turned to face the strain of changes with three and one-quarter out of four stars.

"The Butterfly Effect" is rated R for violence, sexual content, language and brief drug use. Running time is 1 hour, 53 minutes.

Last week's No. 1, "Along Came Polly" came and went to second place, bringing in $16.6 million, a ten-day total of $53.5 million. Tim Burton's "Big Fish" finished fourth, reeling in $7.3 million to its bucket of $49.1 million.

Golden Globe Award-winning "The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King" crowns the fifth spot, capturing another $6.9 million. "Return Of The King," with its $337.9 million, has broken into the top ten of all-time grossing films.

20th Century Fox' "Cheaper By The Dozen" drops from the top five to No. 6 with $6.6 million - $122.8 million to date.

For more information and show times, contact Regal Cinemas Marketplace 24, 180 Mill Road, Oaks, at (610) 666-6697.

Dennis J. Wright can be reached at dwright@phoenixvillenews.com.

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