It’s a snap to see the difference between sweet and sour satire.
The political comedy stars Jennifer Garner as a hypocritical Tea Party type named Laura whose husband Bob (Ty Burrell of “Modern Family” fame) is the Midwest’s champion butter carver. When Bob chooses not to compete for a 16th straight title Laura goes ballistic, verbally assaulting her husband and declaring she’ll take his spot to keep the butter carving title in their name.
Laura has some stiff competition from a talented, 10-year-old foster child named Destiny (Yara Shahidi) who discovers her carving talent by accident.
Screenwriter Jason A. Micallef jams in a salty stripper (Olivia Wilde), two well-meaning foster parents (Rob Corddry, Alicia Silverstone) and Laura’s sexually curious daughter (“Twilight” co-star Ashley Greene). What’s missing is a narrative engine worthy of all these subplots. The film stages a mid-movie butter carving showdown, leaving the last half of the film to flail around looking for its purpose.
Garner’s Laura is as over the top as one might fear, but she’s wallowing in a sea of one-dimensional portraits of middle Americans. They dress badly, embrace kitsch and – gasp – sometimes home school their children.
Political satire should slice deeply into its targets. “Butter” leave a trail of paper cuts, while treating co-star Hugh Jackman as shabbily as a relative who shows up for holiday dinner two hours late. Jackman plays Laura’s ex-flame, stunt casting that comes off like a favor being called in at the last minute.
Laura’s marriage makes no sense, and the screenplay exerts no effort to flesh it out. Garner is alternately cursing and God blessing America, while Burrell is left to pantomime his cuckolded hubby shtick from his great ABC show.
Wilde emerges as the film’s sly surprise. The gorgeous actress is having a blast as the foul-mouthed stripper, a character given the best lines and worst wardrobe choices.
“Butter” wraps on a particularly nasty note, mocking how anyone could applaud a figure like Laura and her ilk. Laura isn’t granted an ounce of humanity along the way, but she fares only marginally worse than her fellow flyover country types.
The Blu-ray extras include a tepid gag reel along with deleted and extended scenes. The latter includes a faux home video of Laura and Bob along with a speech by Laura detailing the inextricable bond between butter and the family unit.