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'CHAOS THEORY' IS CHAOTIC IN REALITY, TOO.

Byline: Glenn Whipp

Film Critic

The erratic "Chaos Theory" revolves around an uptight efficiency expert who lays out his philosophy about 30 minutes into the movie:

"Those who cannot control whim are destined to be controlled by it."

You'd think somebody stirring this artificial concoction would have listened to that advice. "Chaos Theory" begins as a tepid romance, gains momentum when it turns to silly comedy and then abruptly shifts gears again, ending as an artificial melodrama that has its characters living and (almost) dying by notions as sudden as a flash flood in the desert.

Just weeks after underwhelming moviegoers with his leading-man abilities in "Definitely, Maybe," Ryan Reynolds returns in another flashback-structured film. "Chaos" has an older Frank Allen (Reynolds) telling his prospective son-in-law all about his own bumpy, Humpty Dumpty marriage to wife Susan (Emily Mortimer), a woman so completely unappealing that you wonder he stayed married to her in the first place.

Short answer: Because then there would be no movie. Nothing makes sense in "Chaos Theory." Susan thinks Frank is cheating on her. Looking to prove his innocence, Frank discovers a rather startling fact about Susan that has him pledging to "decide to never decide another thing again."

So Button-Down Boy goes on a bender, which nicely plays to Reynolds' strengths -- comic timing and smart-ass behavior. But when director Marcos Siega ("Pretty Persuasion") ramps up the volume on the emotional, alt-rock sound cues and turns the movie into a bad episode of "One Tree Hill," the pain on Reynolds' face seems genuine for all the wrong reasons.

Without reading too much into the frozen expression, Reynolds seems to be thinking: "What happened to the funny movie I was just in? You know, the one with me getting stupid and running naked around the hockey rink? Because the movie I'm in now -- the one where you're putting the little girl playing my daughter into all kinds of contrived situations to push people's emotional buttons -- is suddenly making me proud that I starred in that 'Amityville Horror' remake. And that movie stunk!"

Then again, maybe I'm projecting. Reynolds' pained expression could well have been the result of eating a bad egg-salad sandwich from craft services. This -- and the very existence of "Chaos Theory," which media giant Warner Bros. is dumping into exactly one L.A. theater today -- will forever remain an unsolved mystery.

Glenn Whipp, (818) 713-3672

glenn.whipp@dailynews.com

CHAOS THEORY - One star

>PG-13: sexual content, language.

>Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Emily Mortimer.

>Director: Marcos Siega.

>Running time: 1 hr. 25 min.

>Playing: ArcLight in Hollywood.

>In a nutshell: Efficiency expert commits to chaos until contrived script dictates otherwise.
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Title Annotation:LA.COM
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 11, 2008
Words:443
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