‘Butter’ has a great cast but fails at political comedy
Published: Sunday, September 23, 2012
Updated: Sunday, September 23, 2012 17:09
Sometimes a film’s concept is so intriguing that there is no way that the final product itself could possibly live up. “Butter,” directed by Jim Field Smith is one of those films.
Jason Micallef’s script for “Butter” was featured on the 2008 “Blacklist,” a list of Hollywood’s most popular and promising unproduced screenplays. The story about a butter sculpting completion in Middle America was supposedly a parody of the 2008 Democratic Presidential primary. Unfortunately, the film itself fails to capitalize on the opportunity for political satire and relies mainly on absurd comedy.
This is not to say that the film lacks comedic moments. The ensemble cast is fantastic. Jennifer Garner plays Laura Pickler, the obsessive-compulsive wife of Bob Pickler (Ty Burrell) a man famous in town for his butter sculpting skills. The competition has made them local celebrities in their small town, and Laura Pickler has dreams of using their popularity to get into local politics.
Meanwhile, a young black orphan girl named Destiny (Yara Shahidi) discovers that she also has an unnatural skill for carving butter. She decides to enter the competition and try to finally give the Picklers some competition. Shahidi is hysterical as the 10 year-old Destiny, and gives a believable performance as a young artist with a gift.
When Bob Pickler cheats on his wife with a sexy stripper named Brooke (Olivia Wilde), their marriage begins to fall apart, and Laura Pickler decides to enter the competition in place of her husband.
It is possible that a lot of the political satire was left on the cutting room floor because 2008 presidential primary jokes are pretty old at this point, but it is clear that Jennifer Garner is playing some sort of mix of Hilary Clinton and Sarah Palin. The whole act falls flat, and it is hard to sympathize with such an obnoxious character toward the end of the film.
Olivia Wilde plays the Brooke character hilariously, but the point of her character is unclear and it’s obvious that the filmmakers had nothing interesting to do with her. She spends most of her scenes asking Bob Pickler for money and carrying on a sexual relationship with his teenage daughter (Ashley Greene), which goes nowhere interesting as far as the butter competition goes.
The one subplot that really shines is the story about Destiny and her adoptive parents played by Rob Corddry and Alicia Silverstone. Corddry is an underrated and underused comedic actor and the highlight of the entire movie. He is the only character that acts like a rational human being, and his relationship with Destiny is heartfelt and adorable.
With a cast like this and a potential for political commentary, it is disappointing that it does not really work. There are moments of brilliance hidden in this mediocre movie, but unfortunately they are few and far between.
“Butter” is available on demand from most cable providers, and will be released in theaters on Oct. 5.