Directed by Jim Field Smith
Butter made the rounds of numerous film festivals a year ago but is just now getting a release. It's not hard to see why. The film barely recovers from its sluggish opening, in which we meet our two main competitors in an Iowa butter-sculpting competition: Laura Pickler (Jennifer Garner), a scheming, all-American woman of “Christian” values; and Destiny (Yara Shahidi), a gifted, almost saintly 10-year-old African-American girl. The parallels to the 2008 election are pretty clear.
Bob, Laura’s husband and former butter champ, is Ty Burrell, essentially playing the same devoted, long-suffering role he does on Modern Family; Kristen Schaal does her usual goofy/creepy bit as another aspiring artist; and Olivia Wilde is the comic highlight as a stripper who’s in the contest purely for revenge. It’s also a nice surprise to see Rob Corddry, taking a break from playing insensitive schmucks, as Destiny’s supportive foster dad.
But the plot is all over the place, the jokes are scattershot, and Garner isn’t that convincing as the conniving Laura. Then again, the role as written makes little sense: she’s a conservative mom with a foul mouth (because profanity is always funny) whose dairy masterwork is a recreation of the Kennedy assassination, a detail we’re supposed to find “edgy” or something, but one which, incredibly, no character ever remarks upon.
Even though it uses a novel setting to satirize American politics, Butter is never as clever or hilarious as it thinks it is. Christopher Guest and company would have had a field day with these aspiring Milk-elangelos.
Opens October 5