Butter
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Right now, R-rated comedies are all the rage. Foul-mouthed flicks like The Hangover and Ted tend to dominate the box office. But rarely do you find an R-rated comedy that’s as prim and proper—or as humorless—as director Jim Field Smith’s Butter.

Jennifer Garner stars as Laura Pickler, wife of Iowa State Fair butter-carving champion Bob Picker (Ty Burrell). For 15 years, Laura has stood by her man, running butter-based charities and hosting butter-related events. So when Bob is asked to step aside and give a new generation of butter sculptors a chance, Laura is furious. Unwilling to let the all-important title of butter-carving champ fall into the wrong hands, Laura decides to enter the competition herself.

  
 
Though Laura doesn’t expect to be challenged in the competition, she ends up competing against lovable Carol-Ann Stevenson (Kristen Schaal), vengeful stripper Brooke Swinkowski (Olivia Wilde), and a sweet little orphan named Destiny (Yara Shahidi).

It’s not hard to see where the filmmakers were trying to go with Butter. The political undertones aren’t exactly subtle—though it seems that the writers were counting on a Palin/Obama 2012 presidential face-off to make the film timely, since Jennifer Garner definitely isn’t trying to portray Mitt Romney. Instead, it’s a battle between a privileged, back-stabbing pit bull of a white woman who says a whole lot of things that rarely make sense and a hopeful African-American underdog who’s as adorable as she is eloquent. It’s a little too obvious—and shamelessly preachy.

Still, the cast members do the very best they can with what they’ve been given. Though Laura was intended to be reprehensible in just about every way, Garner at least makes her an intriguing character, alternately folksy and feisty. Rob Corddry gives an amusing—and surprisingly charming—performance as Destiny’s foster dad. And despite the fact that characters like Wilde’s bitter Brooke and Hugh Jackman’s dumb-as-a-rock redneck, Boyd Bolton, are completely absurd, you can’t say that the actors phoned in their performances. In fact, just about everyone member of the cast gives it everything they’ve got—which might actually make the finished product feel all the more tragic.

The ideas behind Butter were definitely creative. After all, I’m pretty sure that you won’t find a whole lot of butter-sculpting political satires out there. But the end result is neither outrageous nor especially entertaining. The expletive-laced dialogue feels awkward, while the jokes are more mean-spirited than clever. And instead of presenting a new perspective on politics, it spends more time making fun of white people, religious [white] people, and [white] middle-Americans.

When audiences venture out to see an R-rated comedy, they generally expect jaw-dropping, side-splitting comedy—but that’s not what Butter provides. Of course, if you’re starving for stupid redneck jokes, by all means, check it out. If you’re looking for smart political satire, though, you’ll most likely find it about as entertaining and insightful as a presidential debate.

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