Critics are going to compare this to the Christopher Guest films, and it certainly has a Best in Show/Waiting for Guffman vibe. Yet I was surprised by so many small things that felt like they were borrowed from the movie Election. That being said, it was a fantastic and fun film I wasn’t expecting a lot from.
Direction Jim Field Smith is going to get the same mixed reviews he got for his first movie She’s Out of my League, which was also good.
Bob Pickler (Ty Burrell from Modern Family) continually wins the butter carving competition at the local fair in Iowa. He’s not just sculpting cows or other animals, but a scenes from Schindler’s List and The Last Supper. The event organizers suggest that, after 15 years of winning, perhaps he should become a judge and give others a chance. This drives his wife Laura (Jennifer Garner) nuts.
Garner played this major b***h perfectly, but it’s a bit of an overused caricature that could’ve been written better. It’s the only poorly written character, though. Burrell is a bit nerdy, but shows kindness in a few scenes that work well. Hugh Jackman is a buffoon car salesman who is perfect as the old boyfriend. He also has the funniest line he’ll ever have in his career.
Rob Corddry cracks me up in everything he does, but he actually plays it straight here. He’s a caring dad of an adopted girl, and sure, he does have a few zingers – but it’s his heart and the heartbreak he shows on his face when he sees Destiny (the amazingly adorable Yara Shahidi) hurt in any way.
Alicia Silverstone is Corddry’s wife and isn’t given a lot to do; yet Phyllis Smith (The Office), makes the most of her few scenes.
Kristen Schaal, so funny on The Daily Show and Flight of the Conchords, plays her usually nerdy character. Again, a sign of the smart writing is that she wants to sculpt something. We know she’s going to be bad, but it’s a realistic type of bad. It’s not like she carved an object that nobody can even figure out.
Some will think Olivia Wilde steals the show as a topless dancer (and sometime prostitute). When Bob gets in fights at home, he tends to pay her visits (and “pay” in the literal sense). The direction it goes with her character is so unexpected and fun.
The plot thickens when Destiny shows an aptitude for carving and wants to enter the contest. She seems like a shoe-in with Bob retiring, yet his wife is furious that the Pickler name won’t be on the 1st place trophy. She decides if her husband isn’t going to enter, she will. We quickly see that she’s pretty good at it carving; not as good at manipulating those around her.
There are so many funny scenes in this, I wouldn’t even be able to pick my top five. Boyd Bolton (Hugh Jackman) praying to god from his yellow Camaro and asking for various favors, and calling him “awesome” for sending hot women he can have sex with.
Seeing a sculpture and not being sure what it is for a few seconds…and the laugh out loud moment you have when realizing it’s JFK being shot in the head.
There’s a scene with Olivia Wilde in the backseat of a car. I wouldn’t begin to even describe that and ruin it for you.
There are a number of scenes that were both touching and funny at the same time. Corddry explaining all the things that could go wrong if Destiny enters the contest (“racist ninjas could attack you” or “good-looking British vampires could be in there”)…all in an attempt to make her realize that the worst thing that could happen is she loses a contest. He realizes even if she loses, she’s going to have fun competing.
You’ll have fun with this movie. It has a mean-spiritedness that might not work for some, and it was a little harsh on the right-wingers. Oh well.
It’s a great cast and a good script.
It gets 4 stars out of 5.