It’s a real life story that’s a dream come true for any filmmaker out there yearning to make that feel good movie geared to make audiences feel better about the world around them, floating them out of the theater on a billowy cloud of hope. It’s the story of Pete (Marc Donato), a terminally ill boy whose last wish it is to catch the elusive Blue “Morpho” Butterfly, an insect so beautiful that it possesses the power to change one’s life. The key to finding his own Blue Butterfly is world famous entomologist Alan Osbourne (William Hurt), who makes regular trips to the Costa Rican rain forest where this insect can be found, with a great deal of work mind you. So with a little cajoling from Pete and his mother (Pascale Bussières), Alan agrees to whisk the two away from their home in Montreal for a potentially life-altering adventure in the rain forest. Yes, the story here is true and it’s an amazingly inspiring one at that, but this story also reeks so horribly of cheesy storytelling that you would swear that it’s fake and it would take some miraculous filmmaking skills to make an audience see past the mist of queso stank. That, or the type of audience who only sees maybe one movie a year – like your grandparents. Most audiences, unfortunately, are going to laugh at all the wrong places, such as the countless horrible clichés stinking up this already pungent tale, taking away that billowy cloud of hope and replacing it with a river of puke.
So our film opens up on Pete and his mother visiting Alan Osbourne, the Steve Irwin of bug hunting, during an appearance of his at a museum. Pushing past all of his interviewers, they plead their case to him, revealing to Alan that Pete has only about six more months to live and that a guided tour through the rain forest would make those last few months all the better. Alan refuses at first, but a few pain in the a*s messages on his phone from Pete sway his decision. Maybe he just wants to make sure his next few months are blissful as well. So with a gruff, “I don’t get along with kids,” he boards a plane with Pete and his mother to go catch them a Blue Butterfly and kill it. The magic of that thought is enough to make your groin go numb and within the first ten minutes of the film you’re faced with the great possibility that what you are going to behold within the next 90 is something like an unfunny version of “Dutch.” Unfunny only if Ed O’Neill doesn’t pop out from behind a tree or William Hurt fails to channel Harlan James from “I Love You to Death.”
Let me crush your hopes here by assuring you that neither of these things come to pass.
Instead, once the group reaches the rain forest they’re found to get along alright, and instead what we have is something like a “Microcosmos” guided tour by William Hurt. A little relief here as the gorgeous photography of the vast rain forest life is the only point of interest I can think of mentioning. Very cool stuff and for the youngsters who may potentially get suckered by their parents into watching this film will have something to marvel at.
“Is that E.T., mom?”
“No, Billy, because if I found that thing crawling around in my closet I’d kill it.”
Past the rich sights, we’re still seated with a terribly syrupy movie that’s bound to gag you to death before mid-game. And it only gets worse from there. Along with the general inability to handle this story so that it doesn’t come off as so much stanky fluff, I had a problem with the characters and the actors doing very little to guide me long to the magic that was supposedly there in the rain forest. William Hurt as Alan Osbourne quite frequently has a look of pain on his face, as if a shiv had been jabbed into his guts; Marc Donato as Pete, while avoiding the pitfall of being an annoying, pushy kid, still doesn’t come off as the most endearing of characters; and Pascale Bussières as good old Mom provided the most trouble – she has a French accent while Pete does not, add that to her rather easy going nature about joining her ailing son in the wild to hunt butterflies and she becomes a very confusing parental figure. Even though she’s established as the boy’s mother at the beginning of the film, as the movie plays out you start to wonder who the hell this lady is. Did you hear right at the start of the picture or is she just a really free-spirited nanny, which is what she comes off more as.
Yeah, this is a family movie, but that is in no way a bad thing. Not in the slightest. It’s just a family movie for families that don’t really watch movies very often – you know, like those weird Bible thumpers next door who believe most television and movies are the devil.