I love films about small groups of fanatics, “fans,” of stuff that the huge majority of humanity is indifferent to or even unaware of. This year we got a great one, The Big Year, about the cutthroat world of bird-watching. Not long ago there was Little Miss Sunshine, about the twisted, perverted world of dressing pre-teen girls up like whores and parading them around for the delight of pedophiles. The grand master of this genre is Christopher Guest, who has taken on doggie fanatics in Best in Show, folk music in A Mighty Wind, and small-town drama productions in Waiting for Guffman. This one might have been a contender … and it is, but only partly. It tackles the very silly Mid-Western Red State mania for butter sculpture.
When it works, it works very well. Jennifer Garner is the uptight, bitchy, scheming wife of the 15-year butter king of Iowa. His masterpiece is a life-sized Last Supper, with Neil Diamond as Jesus. But he’s been asked to step aside for new blood. This is okay with him, but Jennifer is really steamed. She is a dreadful, horrible woman, with no redeeming qualities at all. She decides to enter the contest this year.
Meanwhile, Destiny is a 10-year-old black orphan who has been bounced around to most of the white foster homes in the Hawkeye State. She finally finds a caring family—the mother is Alicia Silverstone, who I hadn’t seen in a while—and discovers that she’s good at butter. She enters, too.
There are complications involving a hard-as-nails dancer/prostitute, played by Olivia Wilde, the best, most hilarious performance in the movie. And there are more funny things, including Jennifer’s tour-de-force creation at the contest: The JFK death car, complete with Jackie crawling back over the trunk and Jack lying on the seat with the top of his head blown away. But scene after scene just seems to go on a bit too long. Some of them flop, lying there like a dead fish. And I just hated the ending. A movie like this has no business getting all warm and fuzzy at the end. I do not believe that a bitch like the Garner character could reform herself like we see, nor have a pathetic moment meant to jerk our tears. It’s a damn shame, too, because the culture of butter art is so funny!
An oddity: Hugh Jackman gets top billing, but he had a very minor part. I thought he was a bigger star than to take a role like that. He’s about to open in the lead of Les Misérables, fer chrisake.