Worst comedy of 2012? Yeah, that sounds about right....
Anchor Bay / 91 Minutes / 2011 / Rated R / Street Date: December 4, 2012
Americana is very easily made fun of - it's almost impossible not to lampoon certain elements of middle American life - but Butter makes it clear very early on that it has no idea what it's doing. With Butter, Jim Field Smith has designed a comedy (boy, I almost want to put quotes around that term) that wants to get to the heart of the American ethic, to plumb the depths of this great country's strive for excellence and tendency toward competition, but from the minute the opening credits roll, you can tell the film is way out of its league.
I can't vouch for Mr. Smith's personal history or background, but watching Butter in high-def gives the impression that the director has little to no legitimate familiarity with the American way. This is not to say that the only appropriate director for a movie like Butter has to have been born within 500 miles of the Mason/Dixon line, but even as a tale told by an outsider looking in, nothing about Butter feels true.
The movie is about butter sculpting, believe it or not. We have the king of the butter-artists (Ty Burrell) who is urged by state fair officials to not enter this year's competition because he's that good. Then there's his passive-aggressive wife (Jennifer Garner) who decides she wants to give this hallowed and esteemed art a try, and there are various other moderate-to-heavily degenerate participants who want to win this contest and maybe even take a stab at a run for governor. Who knows?
Butter was dumped into theaters a few months ago, and it's easy to see why its studio was anxious to be rid of it: there's a minor potential for the cultivation of a fringe audience here, but I honestly feel like viewers will be on to Jim Field Smith's snarky narrative disdain within twenty minutes or so. It's good not to take things seriously, and cutting down the very tenets that make folks 'American' is part of the grand tradition of satire, but Butter is neither insightful nor zippy. Instead, it's disappointingly and uniformally forgettable.