The chance for delicious satire melts away quickly in Butter, a spoof without oomph. Jennifer Garner stars as Laura Pickler, an uptight Iowa housewife whose husband, Bob (Modern Family's Ty Burrell), has won the state's annual butter-sculpting contest for the past 15 years. Now they're asking Bob to step aside to make way for fresh blood, like Destiny (Yara Shahidi), an 11-year-old black foster child with a flair for shaping butter into art. Laura is so mad that she decides to take on Destiny herself and keep the butter prize in the family.
By now you can see where the script by Jason Micallef is going. Butter elections are no different from presidential ones. And you can bet that the conservative tightasses fight dirty, especially in contrast to the liberal all-inclusiveness repped by Destiny.
Yes, it's that obvious. Wait till you see Hugh Jackman as randy car dealer Boyd Bolton. British director Jim Field Smith has no shame about shooting ducks in a row. But political satire needs more than a fresh setup – it needs barbs that stick. And you can't have that when the script keeps throwing in distractions like a stripper (a wildcat Olivia Wilde) who shags Bob and then takes it out on Laura by taking her on in butter. Best in show is definitely Garner, who knows how to play comedy of the absurd. Too bad she's stuck in a movie that wishes it were a Christopher Guest sendup but comes off like a cheap imitation.