Butter slabs on the talented cast members as thickly as possible, but it still occasionally misses on the laughs. Despite this, the flick, directed by Jim Field Smith and written by Jason A. Micallef, creates a believable set of characters existing in a setting that is both strange and intriguing.
The first few minutes of Butter are tough to get through. The flick begins with a vocal overdub from Laura Pickler (Jennifer Garner), explaining the history of the butter competition she has been a part of for 15 years. It’s necessary knowledge, but the vocal overdub doesn’t really work, especially when it segues into another overdub from the 10-year-old Destiny (Yara Shahidi). It’s disjointed, but it effectively explains the history of our two main characters, and if you can get through it, you’ll find a movie that is witty, warm, and mostly enjoyable.
Butter follows a year in the Iowa State Fair butter sculpture competition. After veteran champion Bob Pickler (Ty Burrell) is barred from the competition, his overbearing—and a little crazy—wife, Laura, decides to pick up the mantle. The recently adopted Destiny would also like to battle for the win, and she has her new parents (Alicia Silverstone and Rob Corddry) and the shockingly forward stripper (Olivia Wilde) to support her. Once the competition begins, things get a little crazy between the older woman and the innocuous little girl.
When the movie is sticking with this basic plotline, it usually manages to keep the audience's attention. Much of this is due to Garner’s Laura and Wilde’s Brooke. Despite the silly Iowan accent Garner affects throughout the flick, her character is one without restraint, who pushes nearly every argument further than it needs to go, and for whom winning the competition is the key to success. Brooke is equally unrestrained, but is missing the pearls and the sophisticated hairdo. By the time she drops a c-bomb mid-film the statement seems commonplace.
However, the movie doesn’t always stick to its basic plotline. There’s a side narrative that loosely deals with Bob, but mostly follows Brooke and Bob’s daughter, Kaitlen (Ashley Greene), that starts strong but then is fettered as the script continues. There’s another plotline involving car dealer Boyd Bolton (Hugh Jackman) that could have easily been fulfilled by Bob had Laura bullied her husband a little more. These are problems, but since the characters are so well-drawn (even when unlikeable), they aren’t issues that detract from the overall watchability of the film.
Butter is a comedy, and if you look at its basic premise, its cast, and even its artwork, the flick seem as if it would be a balls-to-the-wall endeavor. However, though it is boosted by funny people Kristen Schaal and Corddry, the movie is more about absurd character interactions than it is about cracking a joke at every turn. Butter is a satire, an over-the-top and occasionally malicious look at wholesome Midwestern life. It doesn’t always hit the perfect notes, but it’s no worse than the random caricature of the hippie couple living in Ben Sur or the overly hardened wealthy family living in the Hamptons.
On a side note, it may be a little strange for Modern Family lovers to see Ty Burrell in a less wonky role. His initial, sincere reaction to Destiny’s craftsmanship is perfect, and even though Bob isn’t the greatest husband or father and is mostly, strenuously unhappy, Burrell shows a little range as an actor and gives audiences a great foil to Laura’s will.
Butter has been lambasted critically, but it seems a little unfair. The flick is strange and enjoyable. It’s not a blue-ribbon worthy flick, but it does offer enough laughs and enough character-types to keep audiences invested, provided they can deal with a plot as strange as a butter sculpture contest. Think long and hard about the butter thing before you pick this one up.
Butter was a lower budget flick, and the less money, less bonus features equation definitely applies with this set. If you stick around for the credits, you’ll get a cute little reel of outtakes that is worth sticking around for. The bonus feature section on the menu page also describes a gag reel, which is actually another set of outtakes. Some of these are really funny, but it’s super lengthy and some of the moments will fall a little flat.
The set also comes with deleted and extended scenes. Six of these are present, including one from the home video segment the film cuts into at the beginning of the flick. Most of the scenes that are cut have to deal with Destiny’s new family and everything they are going through. I actually really liked seeing Corddry interact with Silverstone more in the extras. I barely mentioned Silverstone in my review because her one basic function in the film was to be the voice of ‘reason’ pointing out how absurd the butter contest was. In the deleted scenes, she’s trying to figure out how to connect with Destiny and whether or not she has the chops to be a mother. This grounds her character.
Overall, the extras we do get are pretty good. This disc was screaming for commentary (Seriously, Micallef wasn’t available?) and the picture and sound are just average, but like the movie, it’s a nice little set.
Reviewed By: Jessica Rawden