The Butterfly Circus
Sometimes acclaimed films aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
Although I don’t have a definitive end date in mind for my Winter Shorts series, I’m definitely closer to the end than the beginning. My work schedule has basically calmed down to the point that I could presumably go back to a normal rotation of features, but there are still a some shorts that I want to see before I wrap this up. Today’s movie, The Butterfly Circus is one such film.
A twenty-two minute short that has won numerous online prizes and film festival awards. It’s hailed as an inspiring story of the human spirit. I suppose it is, but its really not a very good movie. It’s message, about working to achieve something, while certainly a noble one, is presented with all the tact and subtly of a brick wall. While the production values are great, the story feels like it could have been written by a high school film class.
Set in Depression-era California, the film stars Nick Vujicic as Will, a man born with neither arms nor legs, earning a living as a spectacle in a low-rent carnival sideshow. Depressed and angry Will’s fortunes change when a few members of The Butterfly Circus, a more high class touring show, happen to visit the side show. After a brief encounter with Mendez (Eduardo Verástegui), the ringmaster the circus, Will stows away in the circus’ truck when they leave town. Mendez informs Will that the Butterfly Circus doesn’t have a sideshow, but welcomes him to travel with them until he finds something that he can do.
There’s no doubt that Vujicic is an inspiring guy. Afflicted with the same rare disorder as his character, I’ve seen him speak from time to time on television, and his achievement and positive outlook are certainly impressive. As an actor, here in his screen debut he’s certainly up to the task, even good. The rest of the cast is also solid to excellent.
I really don’t want to bag on this movie too much, it’s skillfully made and its heart is absolutely in the right place, but it just isn’t a very good film. Honestly, in this case, maybe the movie needed to be a feature, with more time to develop, maybe the film could have included a bit more nuance, a bit more emotional depth. Add those things and The Butterfly Circus would almost certainly be worth seeing, but as it is, it just isn’t.