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Chaos Theory Not So Chaotic

Published April 10, 2008 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of Warner Bros. Pictures
Chaos Theory Poster Chaos Theory
Warner Brothers is not a studio that usually does limited releases. I'm not talking about Warner Independent. I'm talking big bad WB with their TV spots plastering every channel and billboards all over the place and 3000+ screen releases. The last time they did a platform was Kiss Kiss Bang Bang because they didn't know what to do with it. It was a shame because that film deserved better. On the other hand, Chaos Theory, which suddenly popped into the April 11 release slot, more appropriately seems like the cursory release presumably stipulated by contract.

Review: Chaos Theory


Motivational speaker Frank Allen (Ryan Reynolds) bases his theories of efficiency on time, so when he runs late one day, it sets in motion circumstances that lead his wife (Emily Mortimer) to think he's cheating on her, only to find out an even worse secret about his wife himself.

Of course it starts with a flashback, because they all do now. At least you get to see a grizzled Ryan Reynolds which is cool, but maybe they should have used that screen time to show how Frank's system ever worked in the first place. We never see him being successful with those index cards and time theories. We only see when it screws up.


The jokes just aren't cute enough. Nicknames for penises, banter with the A-hole ferry guard and getting drunk are all mediocre laughs. The little girl is cute and Frank trying to avoid seduction has some good timing. There are a few good visual gags where you see slapstick obscured or in the background, but that's just competent camera placement. Then he starts meeting total cartoon characters so there's really no sense of tone.

The misunderstandings are so preposterous, it would be easily explainable. The payoff about 35 minutes in is juicy, and Reynolds is so real when it gets heavy. It just keeps trying to mix cute and tragic, and it doesn't work.

Frank never gets that bad, even when he goes "dark." It's a pretty harmless rebellion and the film never lets him pass a point of no return. It reminds me of Nothing to Lose, which was sort of about a dorky rebellion, but that had a consistent ironic tone, like, "Look, this is as daring as this guy gets when he has nothing to lose." Chaos theory is actually trying to deconstruct the character, and Reynolds can do it, but the script just doesn't go anywhere significant.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of Warner Bros. Pictures
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