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Theatrical Review

Radius-TWC; 90 minutes

Director: Jim Field Smith

Written by on October 4, 2012 

Butter, directed by Jim Field Smith, begins brave and strong, like so many pieces of satire. And while it does form into a pleasantly light, sweet-hearted examination American ambition – despite a few misplaced plot surprises – one can’t help wondering what this all would have looked like with a bit more bite.

The film stars Ty Burrell (you know him as Phil on Modern Family) as Bob Pickler, the premier butter carver in all the land. That land is Iowa and Bob’s wife, Laura (Jennifer Garner), is primed to be in front of the cameras at all times, taking in all of the fame she can.

Meanwhile, on the other side of this small town in Middle America, a young orphan named Destiny (Yara Shahidi) has found her calling as a carver of butter as well. Confused but determined to do right by Destiny, adoptive parents Julie (Alicia Silverstone) and Ethan (Rob Corddry) support the young girl’s new found talent with a grain of liberal cynicism at the people this kind of competition attracts.

Political wheelings and dealings abound, leading to a town-wide showdown between the bloodthirsty Laura and the passionate Destiny. Garner is in full-form here, taking the mother character she has played in so many a film and turning it on its head. And while she’s sideswiped a bit by some silly third act contrivances to her character, Garner serves as the main comedic energy behind Smith’s picture. The heart rests firmly in the hands of Corddry, who gets the chance here to expand an impressive performance range usually relegated to inspired but small supporting roles in broad comedies.

The film, unfortunately, loses a significant amount of steam, due in large part to an unnecessary cameo by Hugh Jackman. The famous Aussie plays Boyd Bolton, an ex-fling of Laura’s who now runs his family’s car dealership and holds a bunch of weight in town. It’s here where the script, written by Jason A. Micallef, trips over itself trying to find a happy ending that still fits with the darker tones introduced at the film’s beginning. This includes unbelievable changes in heart, inexplicable motivations by underwritten characters and so on and so forth.

Thankfully, Butter, above all else, is a performer’s showcase that fully allows said performers to strut their stuff. The young Shahidi is a find as the young butter-ing protege, while both Ms. Silverstone and Mr. Burrell are happy to do the most with the limited screen time they are given. Olivia Wilde steals a few moments as the local stripper who’s stolen both Bob’s heart and the heart of his sexually-curious daughter Kaitlen, played by a very game Ashley Greene.

Smith lets his actors have fun with the mostly smart situations he provides them, and that alone is worth the price of admission.

Butter hits limited release Friday, October 5th and is now available on VOD.


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