Something about Butter seems very appealing to me. The upcoming movie from director Jim Field Smith (She's Out of My League) combines the two things that are necessary in any gripping comedy film: contemporary political allegory and dairy-related sculpture.
Jennifer Garner plays a straight-laced housewife aching to get into the butter-sculpting game after her husband (Ty Burrell), a renowned name in the field, has retired. Garner's character will face off against a young butter prodigy (Yara Shahidi) and a brazen stripper (Olivia Wilde). Also in the cast, as you can see below, are Hugh Jackman as an adulterous car salesman, Rob Corddry and Alicia Silverstone.
And though the plot is simple and silly, it all just gives off a vibe of dynamism. Maybe it's because everyone is smiling in the pictures below. Maybe it's the butter sculptures propagated by young Shahidi. Maybe it's my excitement to see Alicia Silverstone do something again. Whatever it is, I'm hooked.
Salt the propulsive new thriller from Phillip Noyce (Clear and Present Danger Patriot Games) has been dubbed “Bourne with boobs ” but that label isn’t entirely accurate. In the role of Evelyn Salt a CIA staffer hunted by her own agency after a Russian defector fingers her in a plot to murder Russia’s president Angelina Jolie keeps her two most potent weapons holstered hidden under pantsuits and trenchcoats and the various other components of a super-spy wardrobe that proudly emphasizes function over flash.
But flash is one thing Salt never lacks for. Its breathless cat-and-mouse game hits full-throttle almost from the outset when a former KGB officer named Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) stumbles into a CIA interrogation room and begins spilling details of a vast conspiracy. Back in the ‘70s hardline elements of the Soviet regime launched an ambitious new front in the Cold War flooding the western world with orphans trained to infiltrate the security complexes of their adopted homelands and wait patiently — decades if necessary — for the order to initiate a series of assassinations intended to trigger a devastating nuclear clash between the superpowers from which the treacherous Reds would emerge triumphant.
The Soviet Union may have long ago collapsed (or did it? Hmmm...) but its army of brainwashed killer orphan spies remains in place and if this crazy Orlov fellow is to be believed they stand poised to reignite the Cold War. It’s a preposterous — even idiotic — scheme but no more so than any of our government’s various harebrained proposals to kill Castro back in the ‘60s. As such the CIA treats it with grave seriousness even the part that that pegs Salt who just happens to be a Russian-born orphan herself as a key player in the conspiracy.
Salt bristles at the accusation but suspecting a set-up she opts to flee rather than face interrogation from her bosses Winter (Liev Schreiber) and Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor). A former field agent she’s been confined to a desk job since a clandestine operation in North Korea went south leaving her with a nasty shiner and a rather unremarkable German boyfriend (now her unremarkable German husband). She’s clearly kept up her training during while cubicle-bound however and in a blaze of resourceful thinking and devastating Parkour Fu she fends off a dozen or so agents of questionable competence and takes to the streets where she sets about to clear her name and unravel the Commie orphan conspiracy before the authorities can catch up with her. That is if she isn’t a part of the conspiracy.
The premise which aims to resurrect Cold War tensions and graft them onto a modern-day spy thriller is absurdly clever — and cleverly absurd. But Kurt Wimmer’s screenplay isn’t satisfied with the merely clever and absurd — it must be mind-blowing. Salt is one of those thrillers that ladles out its backstory slowly and in tiny portions every once in a while dropping a revelatory bombshell that effectively blows the lid off everything that happened beforehand. No one is who they seem and every action every gesture no matter how seemingly trivial is imbued with some kind of grand significance. The effect of piling on one insane twist after another has the effect of gradually diluting the narrative. When anything is possible nothing really matters.
But spy thrillers by definition trade in the preposterous and the principal function of the summer blockbuster is to entertain. In that regard Salt more than fulfills its charge. Noyce wisely keeps the story moving at pace that allows little time for asking uncomfortable questions or poking holes in the film’s frail plot. And he has an able partner in the infinitely versatile Jolie who having already exhibited formidable action-hero chops in Wanted and the Tomb Raider films proves remarkably adept at the spy game as well.
It’s well-known that Jolie wasn’t the first choice to star in Salt joining the project only after Tom Cruise dropped out citing the story’s growing similarities to the Mission: Impossible films. But she’s more than just a capable replacement; she’s a welcome upgrade over Cruise not least because she’s over a decade younger (and a few inches taller) than her predecessor. Should Brad Bird require a pinch-hitter for Ethan Hunt he knows where to look.
The Jennifer Garner-produced Butter continues to churn up new cast names by the day.
Hugh Jackman and Alicia Silverstone are the latest to join. Variety reported on those additions yesterday while MovieLine also noted that House's Olivia Wilde is now in the mix.
The three join Garner, Rob Corddry, Kate Hudson, Ty Burell, Ashley Greene and Yara Shahidi.
Written by Jason Micallef and helmed by Jim Field Smith, the film is about a Midwestern woman trying to win a local butter-carving contest.
Shooting is expected to begin this month in Louisiana.
Eddie Murphy is attached to produce, and possibly star in, The Misadventures of Fluffy, a new buddy comedy set up at Paramount.
The Risky Business blog reports that Sam Pitman and Adam Cole-Kelly sold the pitch for the R-rated comedy and will write the script.
The project is described as a road trip through New York featuring talking animals, and with an element of social comedy reminiscent of Trading Places.
Although insiders emphasize that Murphy is formally attached to produce, and not formally attached to star, this has the makings of combining two proven commodities for the actor: Trading Places-style R-rated laughs and Doctor Dolittle-esque talking to the animals.
Paramount is already in the Eddie Murphy business, with writers currently being sought for the studio's Beverly Hills Cop IV.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Eddie Murphy is terrific in Imagine That as Evan Danielson an overworked financial advisor who is so immersed in his job he’s forgotten about Olivia his daughter from an estranged marriage. When he is given custody for a week and he gets too busy with work she retreats into her fantasy world imagining a group of princesses who as it turns out really know their way around big business. When Dad figures out his daughter’s special blanket and otherworldly friends have the magic touch for investment advice he becomes an instant superstar in his firm. But his newfound success soon sets up a confrontation with his chief rival Johnny Whitefeather whose presentations are often full of (Red) bull.
WHO’S IN IT?
From Dr. Dolittle to Daddy Day Care Murphy has carved out a solid alternate career as a star of family-friendly movies. But none of those previous works play to his overall talents as a comedian better than Imagine That in which he gets to merge his kid’s fantasy world with office politics for optimum laughs. The purely delightful premise in which Murphy faces off with skeptical business partners is perfectly toned to his talents and allows him to be widely appealing for both kids and their parents. As daughter Olivia newcomer Yara Shahidi won out over 3000 girls and is wonderful a real charmer who goes toe to toe with Eddie. Thomas Haden Church provides the perfect foil for Murphy as Whitefeather a guy who plays off a phony Native American heritage and spouts nonsensical advice like he’s E.F. Hutton. As bosses vying for Murphy’s newfound talents both Ronny Cox and Martin Sheen play it straight lending the appropriate gravitas to their roles. Nicole Ari Parker is winning in her few scenes as Olivia’s mom.
Murphy’s comedic tendency to go way over the top (i.e. Norbit) is kept in check with great results. He’s totally believable as a stressed-out businessman and his trip into his daughter’s imagination is handled realistically mined for the optimum number of laughs without sacrificing credibility. Credit for this goes to Karey Kirkpatrick (Over the Hedge) an animation director making his live-action debut for keeping cartoonish antics to a minimum and emphasizing heart and the father/daughter bond instead.
The scenes between Murphy and Shahidi are so effortlessly charming and real that you wish there were more of them. (One highlight is when father teaches daughter to sing Beatles songs which are heard throughout the film.) It’s the kind of thing Bill Cosby did so well on TV but could never pull off in movies. Murphy does.
Murphy is in top comic form all the way and is never better than when he berates Littlefeather’s hokey presentation then comes up with one based on his daughter’s doodlings that shows off the comic genius we haven’t seen in this actor’s comedy vehicles in quite a while.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
Imagine That is a family film in the truest form and ripe for an outing with your kids. If you don’t have any rent one and go.
Funnyman Eddie Murphy returns to theaters on June 12 with Imagine That, a family comedy in which he plays a hot-shot investment banker who retreats to his daughter’s imaginary world when his career takes a nosedive. Speaking of career nosedives, Murphy’s rep took a hit last year when his sci-fi comedy Meet Dave crashed and burned at the box office. Can Imagine That, which co-stars Thomas Haden Church and Vanessa Williams, turn things around for the comedy legend?
Judge for yourself by checking out our exclusive clip from Imagine That, wherein the very funny youngster Yara Shahidi (Role Models) first argues with Murphy’s character, then orders his cronies to pelt him with plastic balls (something that many of us who’ve seen Norbit have often fantasized about doing):
Imagine That opens nationwide on Friday, June 12, 2009.
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