EmptyRyan Reynolds plays a meticulous efficiency expert whose regimented life is suddenly thrown off kilter in "Chaos Theory," a would-be satire that spends its 86-minute running time struggling to find a workable tone and sticking to it.
The few moments when it does manage to stumble into a semblance of a comic groove, the film -- directed by Marcos Siega ("Pretty Persuasion") from a blunt-edged script by Daniel Taplitz ("Breakin' All the Rules") -- suggests an ersatz "American Beauty," but the effect proves fleeting.
Shot two years ago in Vancouver, the Warner Bros. release unlikely will cause much of a commotion at the boxoffice.
Reynolds' Frank Allen is the uptight author of a self-improvement best-seller titled "The Five Minute Efficiency Trainer," and he personally practices what he preaches, organizing his life into a series of index cards filled with to-do lists.
One morning, in a well-meaning effort to give her husband's painstaking scheduling a little breathing room, wife Susan (Emily Mortimer) has moved the clocks back 10 minutes, mistakenly believing she's bought Frank more time, when the opposite turns out to be the case.
That lost 10 minutes proves to be costly for Frank -- starting with a missed ferry to a speaking engagement and setting off a chain-reaction of awkward moments and misunderstandings that succeed in sending Frank's life spiraling completely out of control.
It would be tempting to say that the film follows suit, but that would be implying that there was a prior point at which Siega had some kind of grip on the material.
But that's never the case here as the picture continuously shuffles moods like tunes on an iPod without ever making any lasting commitments.
As a result, neither the comedy nor the quieter, more introspective moments carry any convincing weight, making it difficult for audiences to have much empathy for the leads and their predicaments.
Reynolds capably navigates those constantly shifting twists and turns, but it's at the expense of any sort of character credibility.
At least he gets to try different dispositions on for size as opposed to poor Mortimer, whose underdeveloped character feels like it was jotted down on one of Frank's index cards.
Production values are serviceable, though there are times when Siega, who started out as an in-demand music video director, seems more intent on keying sequences to their accompanying songs rather than making an effort to really connect with the story at hand.
Castle Rock Entertainment and Lone Star Film Group present a Frederic Golchan production
Director: Marcos Siega
Screenwriter: Daniel Taplitz
Producers: Frederic Golchan, Erica Westheimer
Executive producer: Fred Westheimer
Director of photography: Ramsey Nickell
Production designer: Sandy Cochrane
Music: Gilad Benamram
Co-producer: Barbara Kelly
Costume designer: Tish Monaghan
Editor: Nicholas Erasmus
Frank Allen: Ryan Reynolds
Susan: Emily Mortimer
Buddy Endrow: Stuart Townsend
Paula Crowe: Sarah Chalke
Ed: Mark Erwin
Peg the Teacher: Constance Zimmer
Running time -- 86 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13