The Butler

Finally allowing Lee Daniels to take his usual broad-stroke social commentary and glop it onto a larger historical canvas, The Butler—based on the true story of White House butler Eugene Allen—aims to cram three decades’ worth of racial turbulence and stereotypical cinematic signifiers of same into one little movie. And with all the requisite shots of cotton fields, segregated drinking fountains, and Black Panther meetings, there’s barely room in this trailer for The Butler’s supposed selling point: its crazy cast of actors playing presidents that includes Robin Williams’ Dwight Eisenhower, James Marsden’s John F. Kennedy, John Cusack’s Richard Nixon, and Alan Rickman and Jane Fonda’s Ronald and Nancy Reagan. In fact, there’s hardly space for anything to live under Oprah Winfrey’s suffocating speeches, which blanket everything here in a sense of heightened melodrama as overwrought as its score. Still, such are the extremes Lee Daniels must go to, we suppose, in order to show America that racism is bad.