A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Butter is an edgy comedy that pushes all sorts of boundaries. For the most part, it works, but for some viewers, the jokes may go too far into raunchy/offensive territory. Expect a steady stream of curse words (everything from "damn" to "s--t" and "f--k"), pot smoking by a teenager, drinking (mostly social), lots of references to sex, an older woman kissing a teenage girl, and some implied sex acts (complete with noises, if no actual nudity). Still, underneath the raunch is the heartfelt message that no matter how great the glory you're chasing, the rewards won't feel sweet unless you really love it and pursue it with good intentions and hard work.
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What's the story?
The world of Iowa butter carving can be dog-eat-dog. Its long-running king, the seriously creative Bob Pickler (Ty Burrell) -- whose masterpiece is a rendering of The Last Supper -- is a sweetheart, but he cowers at the ambition of his wife, Laura (Jennifer Garner). She sees a blindingly bright future for her and Bob, one filled with fame and fortune that could lead all the way to the White House. But when the powers that be tell Bob it's time to relinquish the throne and switch to judging so that other winners can be crowned, Laura is furious. Determined to keep the glory within the family, Laura decides to enter the competition herself. But first she must face the wrath of Brooke (Olivia Wilde), the stripper whom Bob has been romancing, and, more important, Destiny (Yara Shahidi), an 11-year-old foster child who may have finally found loving adoptive parents ... and who shows an amazing affinity for sculpting butter.
Is it any good?
Make no mistake -- BUTTER is an acquired taste. Its jokes are irreverent, its social comedy biting. An African-American child calls the Caucasian parents who are fostering her "crackers," for instance; a woman accuses the child of playing "the race card" when she decides to include Harriet Tubman in her display; and a teenager hooks up with an adult woman to spite her parents. The film teeters gingerly on a narrow tightrope. Lean one way, and it's crass; another, and it's self-conscious. Still, the movie stays upright the entire time, and that's a feat.
Garner continues to shed her good-girl image with her bracing turn as Laura, who's reminiscent of her equally prickly character in Arthur. At times she seems to have dialed up her performance to maximum volume when a more nuanced portrayal is called for, but all in all, she's hilarious. Wilde succeeds but less so; her Brooke is one note, but she delivers her lines with punch, so they land deftly. Ultimately, it's Shahidi who's the star here; Destiny is lovable but spunky, and not in an earnest way. Sometimes Butter feels like it's trying too hard, and there are so many characters to track that we're left with the feeling that key players -- Burrell, for instance, and Hugh Jackman -- were ignored. Still, Butter is worth sampling for sure.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the appeal of edgy/raunchy comedies. Movies like Butter push a lot of limits to make audiences laugh. Does it work? Or does it cross the line? How can you tell the difference?
Why do you think Laura is so hungry for fame? Does the movie sympathize with her or not? Is she a role model?
What about Destiny? Does the movie minimize her struggles or empathize with her?
- In theaters: October 5, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: December 4, 2012
- Cast: Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Garner, Olivia Wilde, Ty Burrell
- Director: Jim Field Smith
- Studio: Radius TWC
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language, sexual content and brief drug use
- Last updated: March 16, 2020
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