Fanatic Cinematic: Take a sad song and make it butter

Movie columnist Alex Leininger on finding beauty in trivial things after befriending sticks of butter for a night

I didn’t go to the theater this week.

I decided against it not only because “Prisoners,” starring Jake Gyllenhaal with an unfortunate haircut, looked dull as can be, and not only because my wallet is as empty as El Rancho on a Tuesday afternoon, but also because of this little thing called Netflix.

Oh, wonderful Netflix. The key to happiness. The master of assisted procrastination. The scapegoat for many a failing grade. Netflix drew me in this week, and when that happens, it’s best to just succumb to its almighty powers.

So, as I sat in the darkness of my bedroom with the bright red screen enveloping my impressionable young soul, I carefully searched for a movie that would make it seem like I had friends for the night. And then I saw it — a yellow cover with Phil from “Modern Family,” Jenna from “13 Going On 30” and Jean Valjean gazing back at me, beckoning my finger to press the infamous play button.

What was this glamorous, angelic movie? You guessed it! The movie I watched was “Butter,” a 2011 film all about sculpting butter in the middle of Iowa.

If you know me, you’ll know that Iowa is very dear to my heart, and that butter is very dear to the toast I have in the mornings while crying about all of the homework I didn’t do. I simply couldn’t refuse its unhealthy glow, and to me, there was something beautiful about that.

“Butter,” with its inarguably unique screenplay, follows the trials of the wife of a renowned butter sculptor, a 10-year-old with an impressive foster home résumé and an irreverent stripper in an intense, townwide butter sculpting competition. I honestly don’t know how the Oscars missed this one.

In the story, Laura Pickler (Jennifer Garner) is the wife of Bob Pickler (Ty Burrell), the most famous butter artist who ever lived. After Bob is forced to retire, Laura enters the competition to hold on to the family’s fame and relevance. Destiny (Yara Shahidi), the innocent-but-driven foster child, moves into the city with her new family and discovers her talent for art. Brooke Swinkowski (Olivia Wilde) strips at the local club and sleeps with Bob, and then enters the contest just to spite Laura. The three, plus another random, annoying girl, compete in the most important event in Iowa history.

I’d like to mention, first off, that despite what you may be thinking, “Butter” is actually not a terrible movie. It was super lame, definitely stupid and at times over-the-top, but the thing that kept it from being a wreck was that it was also constantly entertaining. (And because I am also all of those things.)

The film is a satire of the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, and even though it definitely won’t be sitting next to “Airplane!” on a shelf of the best satires ever, it had a few redeeming factors that keeps it from being the most pointless movie I’ve ever seen.

Most obviously, the cast is great. Somehow, the premise behind “Butter” attracted a solid list of funny and talented actors to the set. Apparently, they believed that it was butter the whole time. Because of this, the movie is an endearing stupid rather than “The Hangover Part III” stupid.

Also, for an R-rated film, it has a surprisingly sound portrayal of family values. Well, at least from one of the families. The transition between silly and raunchy to touching and heartfelt is awkwardly quick a lot of the time, but it works. To top it off, Shahidi is adorable.

Most importantly, “Butter” raises an extremely important, unavoidable life question: Can any trivial life object be made into beautiful art? Can a jealous wife sculpt her unfaithful husband into a dangerous car wreck? Can a sad little girl take her troubles and form them into an artery-clogging figurine of the mother she never knew? It’s not a difficult concept. Art can consist of anything as long as it means something.

That sounds lame, but so is life. Lame can be a beautiful thing. And so was “Butter.”

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