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The Jennifer Garner Movie Kids Definitely Shouldn’t See

August 22, 2012

Maybe you’ve caught the viral YouTube clip of two little boys weeping hysterically after suffering through the ending of Disney’s feel-bad fable The Odd Life of Timothy Green. I had a similar reaction after watching the movie, but for a different reason: I found the story of an infertile couple who bury their written wishes for an unborn child in a box in their yard—only to see a leaf-covered 10-year-old crawl out of the dirt—irredeemably creepy. It wants to be an even more family-friendly Field of Dreams (“If you build him, he will come”), but it ends up more like Children of the Cornball. I swear, if someone recut the film’s trailer and set it to the score of The Omen, it’d be absolutely terrifying.

Then again, my preternaturally mature 10-year-old daughter, Olive (of stuffOlivesays fame), loved Timothy Green. Go figure. In any case, you might want to think twice before taking your kids. But I can categorically advise you not to take them to see Green star Jennifer Garner’s other new film, Butter. On paper, it couldn’t sound more wholesome: Garner stars as Laura Dean Pickler, an Iowa housewife who competes with a precocious 11-year-old African-American girl named Destiny (Imagine That‘s adorable Yara Shahidi) in a butter-carving contest. But this is one deliciously sharp, deservedly R-rated spoof that should be savored by discerning grown-ups only.

“You’re gonna love Butter,” Garner told me when I recently interviewed her for the New York Daily News. “It’s a little bit of a naughty comedy.” Both are among the understatements of the year. I devoured Butter—screaming with laughter at the shockingly funny gags. Which is why I can’t believe Butter‘s not hit theaters yet, despite the Weinstein Co.’s original plan to release it for a week last October for Oscar consideration before rolling it out again in 2012. Now it’ll inexplicably be released on VOD next month, in advance of its theatrical run later this fall.

Garner in the cutting satire "Butter"Garner wickedly parodies Sarah Palin/Michele Bachmann types in this “cutthroat story of greed, sex, blackmail and butter,” as her aspiring politico puts it in the opening narration. She melts down after her husband (Ty Burrell, doing an uproariously craven variation on Modern Family‘s Phil Dunphy) agrees not to go for his 15th straight win in the county carving competition. (Among his previously victorious sculptures were Newt Gingrich on a horse, a Schindler’s List homage and, of course, the Last Supper.)

Butter really starts to get slippery when Laura unfairly challenges Destiny at the Iowa State Fair. The flawless ensemble—including Rob Corrddry and Alicia Silverstone as Destiny’s lovably supportive foster parents, Hugh Jackman as Laura’s slow-witted car salesman paramour and Olivia Wilde as a pole dancer who beds both Burrell and his surly teenage daughter (Twilight‘s Ashley Greene)—get into the cuttingly satirical spirit of first-time screenwriter Jason Micallef’s script. And much like Jason Reitman did with Garner’s Juno, British director Jim Field Smith (Episodes) manages to keep the finely etched characters from crossing over into condescending caricatures.

All this, plus a happy ending and a hilarious blooper reel before the closing credits. Maybe the makers of Timothy Green should’ve tried that!

Did you take your kids to see Timothy Green and if so, were they traumatized?

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