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With: Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Mariah Carey, Terrence Howard, Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Redgrave, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Lenny Kravitz, Robin Williams, James Marsden, Liev Schreiber, John Cusack, Alan Rickman, Jane Fonda, David Oyelowo, Colman Domingo, Clarence Williams III
Written by: Danny Strong, based on an article by Wil Haygood
Directed by: Lee Daniels
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence and disturbing images, language, sexual material, thematic elements and smoking
Running Time: 132
Date: 08/16/2013

Lee Daniels' The Butler (2013)

2 Stars (out of 4)

A Big Help

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Butler tells an obviously important and inspiring story, but the actual movie is laughable. Unfortunately, there's not one moment that's actually intentionally funny. Like so many "based on a true story" movies, it hits only highlights in the life of a butler who served in the White House under several United States presidents, from Eisenhower to Obama. As Cecil Gaines, Forest Whitaker does his best in the role, but since there are no rest periods between Important Events, we have no idea who he really is.

The movie is populated with tons of supporting characters, such as Oprah Winfrey as Cecil's wife, who has an affair, almost as if for something to do. Cecil's son goes out into the world and, like Forrest Gump, happens to be there for just about every major event in the Civil Rights movement. Then there are the presidents, which plays like a game of "guess that cameo," though perhaps the most amusing is Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan.

But perhaps worst of all is the title, Lee Daniels' The Butler. This leads us to several questions. Grammar-wise, does the butler belong to Lee Daniels? If so, why does he need a "the" in there? But, honestly, does anyone know or care who Lee Daniels is? This is only his third movie; The Paperboy is as awful as The Butler and Precious is passable, but overrated.

I have found, in my travels, that messages are more easily conveyed indirectly, with a little humor or entertainment thrown in. This movie practically trumpets its own excruciating importance. I'll keep the story, but I'll just leave the movie where I found it.

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