Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Butter Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
In Iowa, butter carving is as cut-throat as a Presidential election, plagued with scandal, greed, blackmail, and sex – except with butter!  When long-reigning champion butter sculptor, Bob Pickler (Ty Burrell), is forced to step down, his zealous wife, Laura (Jennifer Garner), enters the competition herself to fight for their status as butter royalty.  A win seems virtually guaranteed for the poised and studied candidate when a formidable contender emerges: the fresh-faced, effortlessly charismatic 10-year-old, Destiny (Yara Shahidi), an African-American foster child of local couple, Jill and Ethan (Alicia Silverstone and Rob Corddry).  Suddenly, it’s anybody’s game and Laura will do anything to win – even if it means resorting to sabotage and seducing her foolish ex-boyfriend, Boyd (Hugh Jackman), as a co-conspirator.

Film (2 1/2 out of 5 stars) 
This is another movie about small town ambition that’s filled with a ton of talented people which were the main reason I wanted to see this movie.  Having seen the movie, I suspect that they agreed to be in the movie for the same reason, as they probably thought with this many good people, the movie should turn out well.  Butter had the potential to be a much better movie but the bland script and lackluster direction have completely let down the actors who do good work despite the odds against them.

Bob Pickler (Ty Burrell) is Iowa’s champion butter sculpter, a position that his wife Laura (Jennifer Garner) holds in high esteem and believes that it entitles them for great things like state office.  Bob has won the butter sculpting contest for fifteen years that the judging committee asks him to stay out of the race to allow someone else to win.  Bob is easygoing enough to graciously step aside, but Laura is a entirely different matter.  Her rage against the judges, Bob, her life, and the perceived injustice of her plans being derailed forces Laura to decide to enter the contest herself.

In the meantime, the browbeaten Bob seeks solace in a local strip bar where he enjoys watching a stripper named Brooke (Olivia Wilde).  Bob even offers to pay Brooke to have sex with him in his van, but they are interrupted by Laura who drives her SUV into Bob’s van.  If Bob thought her anger couldn’t get any worse, he was wrong.  Both Bob and their daughter Kaitlen (Ashley Greene) have been dealing with Laura and her attitude for years  and both do the best they can to just stay out of her way.

Two people that haven’t learned that lesson yet are Carol-Anne (Kristen Schaal) and a young adopted girl named Destiny (Yara Shahidi) who both enter the contest against Laura.  Carol-Anne does it just because she worships Bob and wants to be just like him, but Destiny does it just because she loves it.  Even Bob encourages Destiny to enter the contest after seeing her talent when she finishes a cup that he started.  Destiny is also supported by her adoptive parents Ethan (Rob Corddry) and Jill (Alicia Silverstone), who are trying to to find a way to connect with her.  As if that wasn’t enough competition for Laura, Brooke also enters the contest just to spite her.
When Laura loses the preliminary contest to Destiny, all bets are off and she seduces her old boyfriend Boyd (Hugh Jackman), a dim used car salesman, to lie to county officials that he was paid by Ethan to help Destiny win the contest. Laura suggests a rematch with just the two of them to take place at the county fair and Destiny accepts her challenge. Everyone else is outraged at Laura’s underhanded tactics and Brooke even gives Destiny money to buy some high end knives to help her beat Laura.  Of course, it all comes down to the battle between Laura and Destiny but there’s a lot going on behind the scenes that could change the final outcome.
Butter has no shortage of star power but it does lack a solid script and assured direction.  Every character is a stereotype – an uptight social conscious wife, a sassy child prodigy, a vindictive slut, and enough small town hicks to cover the rest of the bases.  Not only are the characters thinly drawn, but most of their story arcs don’t go anywhere either.  Laura and Bob’s daughter disappears before the end with no resolution as does Carol-Anne.  The rest hover on the periphery but very few get decent closure for their character.  Another script flaw is the fact that in the course of a couple of days, Laura somehow becomes a master at butter sculpture.  The only training we see is her reading book on how to become an artist so unless she is somehow a natural prodigy at it, it’s just a easy plot convenience.  While the movie overall is fairly disappointing, the cast elevates the lame script into something somewhat enjoyable just through their sheer star power and charisma.

Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

Butter’s 1080p (2.35:1) transfer on the other hand is very good.  The transfer’s detail is incredibly sharp with crisp images that are well defined for every scene.  Colors are vibrant and varied and the black levels are perfectly dark and solid.  Flesh tones are natural and consistent throughout the movie.  This transfer from Anchor Bay is first rate and it helps make up for the disappointing movie.

Audio (4 out of 5 stars) 

Butter’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is also impressive even though this is basically a dialogue driven film.  This is a clean sounding mix with the dialogue being delivered evenly and consistently through the center channel.  The rear channels offer some subtle but effective ambiance as well as the clear sounding score.  This film doesn’t really have much to tax this mix other than when Laura crashes her car into Bob’s van, but when scenes like that occur, there is some added oomph. This lossless mix is pretty well suited to the movie so there’s not much to complain about.

Extras (2 out of 5 stars) 

I can’t offer much praise for this limited set of extras included on this disc.  They are brief and not very good but at least they are in high definition.
  • Gag Reel - A montage of the cast messing up and screwing around.  There’s some good stuff in here but nothing fantastic.
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes - A collection of deleted scenes that runs just over nine minutes which doesn’t really add much to the movie and I can see why they were cut.

Summary (3 out of 5 stars) 

Butter isn’t that great of a movie but it could have been a lot better if more time had been spent refining the script and put in the hands of a better director.  You sure can’t blame this all star cast who must have agreed to this out of friendship or because they wanted to act with the other actors that had already been roped into this.  The Blu-ray makes up for the movie with a first rate video transfer and an excellent audio mix but drops the ball on the extras.  If you are a fan of these actors you might want to give the film a try but you might want to rent it first before buying it.
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