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In retrospect, Donnie Darko certainly had the makings of a cult hit, what with its talking man-rabbits, parallel universes, and pederasting Patrick Swayzes. But the film’s midnight-movie success surely also had something to do with its ambiguity—or, some might say, its impenetrability. In recent interviews, director Richard Kelly has suggested that Darko’s many loose ends—and, therefore, its many possible interpretations—were the result of his contractual obligation to deliver a movie less than two hours long. Given a rare opportunity for a theatrical rerelease, Kelly added 20 minutes of footage, including some that was released on the DVD, some that wasn’t, and some that isn’t really footage at all. (Hey, if you’ve also got a cult-hit Web site, you might as well use it.) Paradoxically, Donnie Darko: The Director’s Cut makes a stronger argument for the open-ended integrity of the original than the original itself. Though the extra material—especially excerpts from The Philosophy of Time Travel, the text around which Donnie’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) alternate reality gradually takes shape—is meant to clarify, its heavy-handed presentation robs the movie of more than it gives back. What was once merely suggested—that by somehow finding and following “God’s channel,” Donnie has overcome his fear of dying alone—is now thuddingly obvious. Lame visual collages and even lamer soundtrack alterations also muck things up: Donnie no longer wakes from sleepwalking to Echo and the Bunnymen’s hauntingly appropriate “The Killing Moon,” but to INXS’s cheese-poppy “Never Tear Us Apart.” Even more distracting are the multitude of shots of Donnie’s pupils dilating, which might please Kubrick and Aronofsky fans, but will cause everyone else to roll theirs. To be fair, The Director’s Cut includes some positive additions: As Donnie’s father, Holmes Osborne gets to do something besides hate on Dukakis; it’s he who initially suggests that someone—or thing—shepherded Donnie from his bed before a jet engine impaled him. As Donnie’s English teacher, Drew Barrymore gets a juicier role, too, seemingly guiding her troubled student to embrace his imminent fate. And Katharine Ross, a standout as Donnie’s psychiatrist, has a curious revelation concerning Donnie’s medication that suggests she doesn’t believe her patient is all that crazy. More than making cosmetic changes to his film, Kelly has essentially remade it—for better in some instances, but for worse in just about all the others.

—Chris Hagan