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.
Butter is a quirky film that sort of works as a straight-up comedy, and sort of works as the satire it seems intended to be. What helps propel Butter forward and engage the audience is the first-rate cast. Jennifer Garner and Ty Burrell play Iowans Laura and Bob, whose lives have centered on the very Midwestern phenomenon of butter sculpture. Bob's been having an affair with a cheeky stripper, Brooke (Olivia Wilde), who's dying to figure out a way to go public with her affections for Laura's husband. Enter the annual butter-sculpting contest. Bob's decided to retire; Laura wants to carry on his tradition; Brooke wants to show up to cause emotional carnage. Then Destiny arrives. Destiny (Yara Shahidi) is an orphaned African-American girl and the foster child of well-meaning Ethan and Julie (Rob Corddry and Alicia Silverstone) and who has an almost unbelievable gift for, you guessed it, butter sculpture. What happens at the contest and in the small Iowa suburb is both a fascinating look at people's unusual obsessions and a satire of those obsessions. If Butter falls short of being in the league of Election or Little Miss Sunshine, it is still enjoyable for what it is--an ensemble cast clearly having a great time playing with one another, and playing in their food. It's a small buttery gem. --A.T. Hurley