Rated R, 3 stars
If anyone thinks Barack Obama’s statement about rural whites in this country clinging to their guns and religion as the hands down, way over the top winning quote in riling up the rubes, they haven’t seen Butter. A satire about the silly escapades surrounding those competitive greasy carving bouts that actually take place around the country on a regular basis, Butter is really about two contests. The other one currently dividing up movie theaters especially during this heated presidential election season, between red state and blue state big screen brawls.
Jennifer Garner, into malevolent makeover mode from sweet to shrewish for a change, is perky, pompous Iowa matriarch, Laura Pickler. When her wimpy spouse Bob (Ty Burrell), the ‘Elvis of Butter’ reigning champ for many years, is disqualified as having termed out and needs to make room for new challengers, Laura will hear none of it. So to keep the prospective accolades all in the family, Laura is determined to step up to the butter plate, so to speak, and fast track the perfection of her nonexistent skills for the pending competition.
And in a tournament where themes and presentations seem to be nearly as important in wowing the judges and crowd in attendance as any talent and artistry involved, Laura focuses on family values flourishes with a happy butter based clan gathering around for dinner. But running interference on Laura clinching the award, and seemingly showing up out of nowhere in this town filled with white folks, is little African-American foster kid, Destiny (Yara Shahidi).
And as bright, articulate and appealing as she is creatively gifted, Destiny fashions a dazzling sculpture about the Underground Railroad during slavery days. Which sends her initially scoffing and condescending adult competitor into sinister mode. And hatching a cruel scheme involving, unbelievably, Hugh Jackman as a lewd, womanizing cowpoke, don’t ask.
Also on hand to inject some sassy when not raucously rude laughs into the zany proceedings, is Olivia Wilde as a pole dancer currently conducting an aggressive shakedown on Mr. Pickler, and involving intimidating impromptu house calls. Which appear to be related to what he may or may not have been doing under the radar, over at the local strip club.
Butter is directed by Brit Jim Field Smith (She’s Out of My League), whose cultural outsider status can be viewed as either a distant enough perspective to do it up right, or just too removed to get it when assessing what’s up regarding the warts and all of American society. While at the same time dividing up audiences about this film as either buttering up the blue states with freaky run, or infuriating the red ones as a movie steeped in unflattering ridicule.