'Butter' proves to be light-hearted, subtle

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Jennifer Garner stars as butter-carving competitor Laura Pickler in the new comedy "Butter." (Photo courtesy of the Weinstein Company)

“Butter”
Jim Field Smith

Genre: Comedy
Grade: A

Jim Field Smith’s razor-sharp satire “Butter” was the opening night film at this year’s Austin Film Festival, and proves to be one of the smartest, most heartwarming comedies of the year. Jennifer Garner stars as Laura Pickler, dutiful wife to 15-time State Champion butter sculpter Bob (Ty Burrell). When Bob is asked to step down, Laura steps in to keep the Pickler family in control, but finds a challenge in Destiny (Yara Shahidi), a young African-American girl whose new foster parents encourage her interest in entering the competition.

The real strength in “Butter” lies in the character details, from the many ways Laura emasculates her husband to the hilariously offensive lines stripper Brooke (Olivia Wilde) manages to spout off to the quiet, sweet connection Destiny makes with foster father Ethan (Rob Corddry). The film juggles big laughs with bigger heart, much of it coming from Shahidi’s wonderful, emotional performance. Jennifer Garner is completely hilarious as the harsh Laura, but Shahidi steals the entire film out from under her with ease.

It’s easy to imagine “Butter” flying under the radar when it gets a limited release late this winter, but the film is a warm, offbeat comedy that’s more than worth the effort it may take to see it.