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Blu-ray Review: Butter (2011)

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William Goldman, legendary screenwriter who earned Oscars for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All the President’s Men and adapted his novels Marathon Man and The Princess Bride, is know for the classic quote about Hollywood, “Nobody knows anything.” It’s a sentiment I not only agree with, but also apply to myself because I can’t believe Jim Field Smith’s comedy Butter didn’t perform better with audiences.

Set in Iowa, the film tells the story of two female characters that becomes rivals in the State Fair butter-sculpting contest. Laura Pickler (Jennifer Garner, one of the film’s producers) is unhappily married to Bob (Ty Burrell), and her identity is based around his being the state’s butter-sculpting champion for the past 15 years. Destiny (Yara Shahidi) is a 10-year-old African American girl that is shuffled around in the foster care system. Although the film is filled with a lot of comedy, both characters are allowed to experience growth.

Because of Bob’s dominance, officials have declared him ineligible. Laura doesn’t take the news well because all that came with winning the event is what helped keep their marriage together. Before she decides to take over the family activity, they get into a fight, which leads to Bob cheating with a stripper named Brooke (Olivia Wilde), whom he ends up owing $600. Brooke will not be denied what she’s due and will stop at nothing from making their lives miserable, from seducing their daughter Kaitlin Pickler (Ashley Greene) to competing in the butter-sculpting contest.

Destiny is shown with different foster parents, but may have found a decent pair in Ethan (Rob Corddry) and Jill Emmet (Alicia Silverstone) though she is hesitant about getting too comfortable. She demonstrates a real talent for butter sculpting that even impresses Bob. Scared of what losing will mean, Laura resorts to enlisting an old high school flame, used car salesman Boyd Bolton (Hugh Jackman) to help with some covert activity.

Jason A. Micallef’s screenplay delivers a great deal of laughs and a touch of heart, bringing to mind films like Little Miss Sunshine. Smith cast the film well because even those who have small roles, like Kristen Schaal and Phyllis Smith, demonstrate a real gift for comedy. Corddry is especially impressive because rather than play an outlandish character, as he usually does in films like Hot Tub Time Machine, he shows great range playing it almost straight as the caring, potential stepfather. I see more dramatic roles in his future and expect him to do well in them.

The Blu-ray has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer displayed at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The image is very strong, presenting solid hues of color and rich blacks. Focus is sharp throughout, revealing fine textures up close and great depth in large scenes. The audio is available as DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, but the dialogue-heavy source doesn’t demand much from the surrounds with its minimal ambiance. Most importantly, the actors can all be heard clearly. The only special features are very special. A gag reel ((HD, 5 min) six Deleted and Extended Scenes (HD, 9 min), and the film on DVD.

Hopefully, Butter has a long shelf life because it’s well worth discovering.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS