With an opening weekend gross of $70,931 (that’s from 90 theaters nationwide, reporting an average take of $788 each) the Michele Bachmann satire “Butter” is shaping up as a world-record flop. But there’s a bit of good news in the mix for another Minnesota native. The film gives Minneapolis-born Yara Shahidi a boost in her role as a precociously talented butter sculptor. Ctritics found her blue ribbon performance one of the film’s highlights. The Wall Street Journal’s John Anderson wrote, "It's the very young Ms. Shahidi, however, who provides the voiceover, and the heart, of "Butter," embodying sweetness, light, a deft touch with a knife and a sharp edge with her tongue." AJ Marechal of Variety concurs, “Shahidi shines."
The 12-year-old actress, who moved to California at age 4, was a natural from the start, said her proud grandfather Mark Keljik, owner of Keljik’s Oriental Rugs in Minneapolis. “From the time she was little if you’d ask, ‘Give me a sad look, give me a happy look, give me a surprised look,’ you’d get it,” he said. Yara frequently returns for family get-togethers and her annual trips to the State Fair were where she first encountered butter sculptures, giving her a leg up over the competition for her most recent film role. She also had the advantage of family connections to the entertainment business. Her mother is first cousin to the rapper Nas.
Yara, who had a major role as Eddie Murphy’s daughter in 2009’s family comedy “Imagine That,” is having a great month, “Butter’s” lackluster launch notwithstanding. Her syndicated comedy about an African American family in the White House, “The First Family,” debuted Sept. 22. She costars with her 9-year-old brother Sayeed as the president’s children. And Yara is cast as the title character’s daughter again in “Alex Cross.” It’s the first installment of what is expected to become a movie detective series, starring Tyler Perry. The film opens Oct. 19.