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Butter (2011)

Anchor Bay Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/4/2012

All Ratings out of




Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/26/2012

If you like to peruse the internet reading about movies, then you've no doubt come across a "What I Learned" list which pertains to a certain movie or a certain genre of movies. (I've also noticed books with this topic at the book store.) Now, if you're basing your entire education on movies, then you may be setting yourself up for a lifetime of ignorance, but it's not inconceivable to actually pick up some knowledge while watching a film. For example, I'm familiar with ice sculptures and sand castle competitions, but I was not aware that people carved things out of butter, much less that they did so in contests. And yet, that's the subject of the film Butter, which shows that butter cutters are serious about their work.

Butter takes place in a small town in Iowa, where Bob Pickler (Ty Burrell) has ruled over the world of competitive butter sculpting for 15 years. Bob is known for his lifelike sculptures (of religious icons and conservative politicians) and he dominates the annual state fair contest. Bob's wife, Laura (Jennifer Garner), sees herself as the wife of a celebrity and loves the social position it gives her. However, the local judging committee asks Bob to step down so that someone else can have a shot at the title. Ever the gentleman, Bob agrees. However, Laura is infuriated by this and she decides to take up butter carving herself. Meanwhile, a young girl named Destiny (Yara Shahidi), who has spent her life being shuffled from one foster home to the next, goes to live with Ethan (Rob Cordry) and Julie Emmet (Alicia Silverstone). They encourage her to find a hobby and she decides to try butter sculpting, and she immediately excels at it. Now, Laura finds herself not only trying to follow in her husband's footsteps, but competing with a 10-year old girl. What will this driven woman do to win?

Butter is a strange title for a movie. Butter sculpting is a strange topic for a movie. And, in some ways, Butter is a strange film...most of which goes back to the subject matter. A quick search engine review reveals that competitive butter sculpting is a real thing. However, it's still difficult for the viewer to wrap their minds around the passion with which the characters attack this activity. Some of this has to do with the tone that Butter applies to the topic. The film opens with a montage of sorts of Bob's work and we can't help but feel that the movie is lampooning something which possibly isn't real. We laugh and then say, "Wait, is this a real thing?"

This issue is a perfect example of the problem with Butter's screenplay by first-time writer Jason A. Micallef. In short, Butter is a story searching for a theme. In some ways, the movie wants to follow in the footsteps of Christopher Guest movies like Best in Show or Waiting for Guffman. While it's not a fauxumentary like Guest's films, it does take a tongue-in-cheek look at a real activity. The movie also wants to be a black comedy and it felt reminiscent of Drop Dead Gorgeous. (I know that movie isn't very popular, but it's one of my favorite little-known comedies.) Laura Pickler is portrayed as a woman who will cross any line to win this competition and her obsession takes the movie to some dark places. However, it never goes so dark that it pushes any envelope. In addition to all of this, the narration by Destiny gives the movie a sort of whimsical, almost indie feel.

So, Butter is a huge mess, right? Not necessarily. The movie certainly meanders and has trouble finding its footing, but the story remains linear and the pacing is good. Director Jim Field Smith, who helmed the hilarious She's Out of My League, attempts to maintain a consistent comedic tone while still introducing some of the dramatic elements of the script. However, he can't overcome the miscue that is Olivia Wilde's stripper character. Yes, it's obvious that she is meant to fly in the face of the buttoned-up and proper Laura, but her subplot spirals out of control and what should have been a very minor character suddenly pops up in every scene and become involved in an odd side story with Bob and Laura's daughter (Ashley Greene). This doesn't ruin the movie per se, but her appearances bring the story to a halt and her involvement in at least two scenes introduce huge plot holes.

Butter introduces to a unique plot, some intriguing characters, and a somewhat nasty streak, but it simply can't close the deal. The movie was shot over two years ago, and one can't help but imagine that the studio didn't know exactly what to do with it. The movie certainly boasts a great cast and it does provide a few laughs. So, if you are in the mood for a quirky comedy, Butter is worth a rental.

Butter never tells us who pays for all of those dairy products on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, as the film is filled with many bright tones, most of which come from Laura's clothes, and the picture is never overly dark or bright. For a Blu-ray Disc, I did feel that the picture was somewhat flat, but it did show good details. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.9 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Being a dramedy, we don't get an abundance of impressive audio effects. However, the crowd scenes provide good surround effects, as the applause fills the rear speakers. The stereo effects sometimes hint at events off-screen. A car wreck scene provides some subwoofer effects.

The Butter Blu-ray Disc offers only a smidgen of extra features. The Disc contains six DELTED & EXTENDED SCENES which run about 9 minutes. This provides some new moments with Destiny, Julie and Ethan which are funny. The only other extra is a 5-minute GAG REEL.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2012.