Churn after reading – Butter review


By Richard Haridy
April 16, 2013

Butter is a dark satirical comedy set in the highly relatable world of competitive butter carving. When Hugh Jackman appeared as an all-American used car salesman, I realised I was watching something special. Not special in a good way, mind you, but special in a ‘why the hell does this film exist’ way.

Ty Burrell (Modern Family) stars as Bob Pickler, a champion carver asked by Iowa State Fair officials, after a 15-years reign, to step aside and give someone else a chance. Bob’s wife Laura (Jennifer Garner) is furious at this affront, and decides to enter the competition herself in order to keep the family glory. Her main competition comes from Destiny (Yara Shahidi), a young African-American orphan with an inexplicable fascination in the craft.


Adding to the oddness, Rob Corddry plays Destiny’s adoptive father with an unexpectedly convincing warmness, whilst Olivia Wilde plays a hooker who randomly shows up to swear and strut around. Alicia Silverstone also appears as Destiny’s mother. Though it is exciting seeing her on screen again, her role is blindingly functional.

After watching Butter I discovered that the whole exercise was apparently intended to be a satirical allegory of the United States’ 2008 Democratic primary process. Garner’s character is meant to be Hilary Clinton, and the young, exotic Destiny is Barack Obama. It all makes a little more sense in hindsight with Burrell’s subservient Bill Clinton husband beset by sexual improprieties, but boy is this reading buried deep.


Butter is bland, predictable, unfunny, and simply not that original. Director Jim Field Mitchell and writer Jason Micallef are so clearly going for a vibe similar to Alexander Payne‘s Election that for much of the running time I merely wished I was watching that movie. It’s frustratingly derivative and not nearly as clever as it wants to be. Clearly, the screenplay’s ambition attracted a great deal of on-screen talent. The final result, however, is a complete oddity that is less an interesting political satire and more the piercing examination of  butter carving competitions that no one ever asked for.


Butter is available on DVD and Blu-ray from April 17, 2013.

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