Broad-stereotype comedy is slathered in shameless bathos in Butter, Jim Field Smith’s tale of a heated Iowa butter-carving competition between former renowned champion Bob’s (Ty Burrell) ball-busting wife, Laura (Jennifer Garner), and young African-American orphan Destiny (Yara Shahidi), who now lives with kindly foster parents (Rob Corddry and Alicia Silverstone). This showdown is marked by cartoon characters popping up at every turn, from a hooker (Olivia Wilde) to whom Bob owes money to Bob’s daughter (Ashley Greene), who’s in love with Wilde’s working girl, to a car dealer (Hugh Jackman) still pining for Laura. Garner embodies her villainess, all steely ambition and unconcealed racism, with a robot smile that turns her into a grating Sarah Palin–style cretin. Jason A. Micallef’s script is humorless, but worse is its attempt to tug at heartstrings via Destiny triumphantly discovering her talent and finding a home—a maudlin subplot pockmarked by the girl musing “White people are weirdos” and “Are these crackers for real?” At least initially, a rowdy Wilde kick-starts some comedic commotion. Finally, though, she’s just another casualty of this inert dramedy, which plays like one long, slow descent into cloying moralizing and uplift that’s well past its expiration date.
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