Directed by: Jim Field Smith

Starring:  Jennifer Garner, Ty Burrell, Olivia Wilde, Yara Shahidi, Hugh Jackman, Alicia Silverstone

When I saw the trailer for Butter, I was incredibly excited. The premise looked interesting; and the cast boasted movie stars, as well as television actors from Modern Family, The Office and 30 Rock.  Moreover, it is a Weinstein Company production. How could it go wrong?  Having just viewed Butter, I must say that the film did not disappoint.

Butter is set in a small town in Iowa.  Laura Pickler (Jennifer Garner) and her husband Bob Pickler (Ty Burrell) are local legends.  For the last fifteen years Bob has been the reigning butter sculpting champion—sculpting everything from the Last Supper to scenes from Schindler’s List.  After fifteen years of Pickler dominance, however, the regional butter board is ready for some new blood and they ask Bob to kindly step aside.  The problem is that his control freak wife Laura is not ready to relinquish their spot as the butter masters.  She sees their popularity as a path to the governor’s mansion or the white house, and she will not go quietly into that good night.  Laura decides to enter the county butter sculpting competition to keep the Pickler legacy and her political aspirations alive.

Laura has some competition though.  Brooke (Olivia Wilde), a local stripper also enters the butter sculpting contest.  Brooke met Bob Pickler at a strip club and he promised to pay her rent during an enticing lapdance.  However, Laura interrupted them before they “closed the deal” and Brooke shows up at the butter competition to harass and annoy Laura.

Young Destiny (Yara Shahidi) also enters the competition.  Destiny is a ten year old African American orphan who has been tossed around from foster home to foster home.  Her new foster parents Ethan and Jill Emmet (Rob Corddry and Alicia Silverstone) are loving and encouraging.  When Destiny expresses an interest in and an uncanny talent for butter artistry, they encourage it.  What follows is an intense butter sculpting competition that involves the little orphan going head to head with Laura Pickler.

Butter is at times biting, at times endearing, and always pretty entertaining.  It is fairly light-hearted, but it throws in issues of race, politics and dysfunctional families.  Yara Shahidi is an absolute delight as the young protagonist.  She shines onscreen and winningly infuses her character with innocence, sincerity and wisdom well beyond her years.  At the same time, she delivers some hilarious one-liners.
Jennifer Garner also turns in a good performance as the cutthroat Republican Stepford wife from hell.  Garner’s character Laura is like a tea party member on steroids—politically incorrect and proud. She goes from bashing the liberal media for publicizing the superbowl more than the butter masters’ competition to calling the ten year old destiny afro-girl, African Iowan or whatever those people call themselves.  Garner commits to her role wholeheartedly.  Other notable performances include Rob Corddry as Destiny’s foster father and Olivia Wilde, who seems to have a blast playing an out of control stripper.

Butter isn’t as good as it could have been.  For one thing, I think Ty Burrell was underutilized.  He is such an amazing comedic force and he could have really shined in this film.  However, I think the meatier roles and the best lines were given to the female characters.  How is that for a change?  Also, the film could have had a little more bite to it.  Although the film maintained a relatively tongue-in-cheek tone throughout the film, I think it had too much of a warm and fuzzy ending considering some of the characters' attitudes throughout the film.
Butter earns a 0.03% rating.