Plot: What’s it about?
You could tell me all day long how good The Butler is, but I had zero desire to see it. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but so little about it looked appealing to me. I think I just expected a heavy-handed overly dramatic message movie. After viewing the film, I admit that I appreciated its more subtle approach, but I still can’t say the film did much for me. Forest Whitaker plays Cecil Gaines. The film follows him as he serves as a Butler for seven presidents at the White House. Cecil encounters many difficult situations over his life and the film offers a glimpse at that as well as the outside world, especially during the civil rights movement. What surprised me as I watched this film was how unfocused it was. There are about a half dozen subplots here that are never given enough attention. I thought I’d at least see a fairly straightforward story about a man who serves as a butler for many presidents. The story keeps shifting focus and I never found myself involved with much of it.
I will say that the cast (for the most part) does a fine job here. Whitaker gives a solid performance and even Oprah Winfrey gives a nice performance here. The less said about Robin Williams as President Eisenhower the better. Cuba Gooding Jr. shows up as a fellow butler and we also get strong turns from Lenny Kravitz, James Marsden, Terrance Howard and Liev Schreiber to name a few. I just wish they were in a film more worth their time and effort. I think the biggest problem here is that the movie is too ambitious in its goals. It begins the 1926 all the way to 2009. It’s almost as if it wants to achieve this goal for no other reason that to achieve it. It only skims the surface and doesn’t offer enough insight into each time capsule to get us involved. I understand this film has been well received by many and that’s fine. This disc serves the film well and fans should feel pleased with it, but I remain unmoved by the whole thing. I think a simpler, more focused film would’ve worked better. What we get here is unfocused and sloppy.
Video: How’s it look?
I didn’t care for the film, but the transfer is first-rate. From the opening moments we can see the nice details. There’s a very clean, smooth look to the whole thing. The image is AVC encoded with a 1.85:1 ratio and displays nice and sharp details. Since the film is new we shouldn’t expect a print that’s less than pristine and we get just that. Flesh tones remained even and accurate and minor details were strong as well such as clothing and background shots. This is a great transfer.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The DTS HD track is nice, but don’t expect an overly engaging experience. That’s not a flaw, but since the film is more dialogue driven, the front channels do most of the work. The rear channels do get some good usage at times and that gives a nice balance to the track. Lines were always clear and free of distortions. Music was spread across the tracks evenly as well. This is a solid track that will please fans.
Supplements: What are the extras?
There really aren’t as many extras here as one might expect, but we still get a few nice goodies.
- Lee Daniels’ The Butler: An American Story – This is a good (22 minute) documentary that provides interviews with the cast and crew and a look at the story behind the film.
- Deleted Scenes – This is a big chunk of scenes that expand upon much of what’s seen in the final film. These are nice to see, but the film was already long enough so these were wisely deleted.
- The Original Freedom Riders – This is too short to offer much depth, but it’s worth watching once I suppose.
- Music Video – By Gladys Knight and Lenny Kravitz
- Gag reel – Provide a few moments of outtakes with the cast
- DVD/UltraViolet Copy