The Black List is an annual list of top unproduced scripts in Hollywood, which tends to yield some of the more interesting films produced in the past few years. Butter is one of the more notable films to make the list – back in 2008, Butter ranked #3 on the year’s listing. Looking at some of the films it outranks, including Inglorious Basterds, 50/50 (listed as I’m With Cancer) and The Descendents, you’d expect a really good film.
Jennifer Garner stars as Laura Pickler, the wife of local butter-carving champion Bob (Ty Burrell) who decides to take a turn at the competition. She’s unexpectedly challenged by an orphan named Destiny (Yara Shahidi), who becomes a favorite in the competition very quickly.
I want to like Butter, truly. I’ll admit to being a huge Jennifer Garner fan, so her casting alone made me want to see this film. Butter, though…is not good. Maybe it’s a matter of aging, but Butter doesn’t come across like a film that’s better than any of the other films listed above from the Black List of 2008. It’s a satire of sorts with figures that resemble Barack Obama and Sarah Palin, but it comes across as neutered.
The lack of satirical bite would be excusable if the film were funny, at least. It’s not. It comes close at points, but it’s not funny. The film, even with a 90-minute run time, is so scattershot with its attempts at humor that it’s hard to latch onto even one style of comedy. That’s unfortunate, especially given the comedic talent included here.
Butter originally screened a year ago at Telluride and the Toronto International Film Festival, and it’s easy to see why The Weinstein Company held off on its release for so long. My guess is that they figured a release near Election Day would help garner more interest in the film. I don’t think the extra year has helped – if anything, maybe releasing this a year ago when Michele Bachmann was still getting media attention would’ve helped draw some comparisons between her and Garner’s character. As it stands, Butter will likely melt rather quickly from screens.