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Movie review: You can definitely taste the satire in 'Butter'

Posted 1:26pm on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012

R (strong language, sexual content); 90 min.

Having a taste for Butter depends almost entirely on whether you find the comedy of condescension and ridicule a hoot or a very cheap form of amusement. This satire on self-righteous, homily-spewing Red Staters and the cutthroat world of butter carving trades almost entirely on making jokes at the expense of others.

The vaguely insalubrious title of the first feature written by Jason Micallef and the second directed by Jim Field Smith (She's Out of My League) refers to the competitive pastime of butter sculpting that consumes the lives of a sufficient number of Iowans to have made it a statewide sport. The undisputed champion for 15 years running is Bob Pickler (Ty Burrell), whose latest creation -- a full-size rendering of The Last Supper -- is considered such a celestial masterpiece that he's asked to step aside to give someone else a chance.

Furious at this blow to family eminence, Bob's wife, Laura (Jennifer Garner), takes up the carving knife herself. Laura is the sort of prim, flag-waving, self-satisfied do-gooder whose pasted-on smile can't disguise incisors ready to rip into anyone she finds wanting or threatening.

The most serious menace comes from an adorable 10-year-old girl with the loaded name of Destiny (Yara Shahidi), who has bounced from one foster family to another until winding up with locals (Rob Corddry, Alicia Silverstone) who bend over backward to please.

Playing a thoroughly unpleasant character, Garner, who also co-produced, somewhat overdoes Laura's initial phoniness and her overriding shrillness. That someone, nay, anyone would become so psychotically preoccupied by butter carving is part of the joke. But Laura is not endowed with a single human quality worth admiring.

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-- Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

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