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Butter: For a master class in what a good movie Election is, see Butter, which could hardly be a poorer knockoff if it tried. Let's see: it features multiple characters offering narration, only for the sake of cheap jokes instead of anything revealing; it's a suburban-scale battle of wills meant to reflect a presidential campaign, only this time it's the 2008 Obama-versus-Palin match-up (which of course was not, you know, an actual presidential match-up, but ok) rather than the three-way 1992 race; and where Alexander Payne has an unsparing eye for the way that people from all walks of life lie to themselves and each other, director Jim Field Smith seems to just basically think everyone is a stupid rube, except of course the saintly (and, when convenient, wisecracking-via-narration) black child played by newcomer Yara Shahidi. Only her adoptive parents, Rob Corddry and Alicia Silverstone, escape the movie's toxicity—and that's only after she gets to call them both "crackers" in that smarmy voiceover. The main event is Jennifer Garner, taking the steely uptightness she gave such humanity in Juno and applying it directly to a clumsy, broad, sometimes downright contradictory caricature of, I guess, Sarah Palin? Oh, and this is all about a butter-sculpting competition, which could actually be really interesting if anyone involved with this movie thought so, too. Instead, it's regarded as just one more stupid human trick.
The Oranges: If Butter doesn't sour your appetite for food-named social satire with a talented ensemble put to little good use, there's always The Oranges, the latest movie to be damned with faint praise: well, Oliver Platt is good in it. He's almost always good, and it's almost always in service of movies that don't quite (or at all) work. In this case, he plays half of a suburban couple (with Allison Janney) whose best friends (Hugh Laurie and Catherine Keener) go through a traumatic separation… brought on by Laurie's affair with Leighton Meester, who happens to be Platt and Janney's daughter.
The Paperboy: And if the sitcom shenanigans of Butter and The Oranges sound far too steeped in actual human behavior, well, Lee Daniels has a movie coming out—the kind where you wonder if the writer-director has met any actual human beings or observed them in any context. I'm all for heightened, pulpy, and/or trashy movies, but this one is weirdly insubstantial: if you wiped the sweat off of The Paperboy, the movie would all but disappear.