There's no question that a terrific comedy could be based on a character like Rep. Michele Bachmann. She's divisive, a prairie Evita, Minnesota's most important political figure of the 21st century, for good or ill.

Movie producer Harvey Weinstein, a big-time Democratic activist, seemed to think he had just such a satire on his hands last year when he jokingly invited Bachmann to co-host the Iowa premiere of "Butter" with him.

The film stars Jennifer Garner as Laura Pickler, a prim, self-righteous steamroller in twin sets and pearls. Her prowess in the cutthroat world of State Fair butter sculpting convinces her she's destined for "the governor's mansion, or the White House."

Bachmann decided to stay away, and so will discerning moviegoers.

This film is dumb, blunt-instrument parody. Lampoons can be mean-spirited and unfair yet devastating. What they can't be is facile and smug. First-timer Jason Micallef's script imagines Iowa as a parade of Corn Belt caricatures, and the direction by Jim Field Smith ("She's Out of My League") is clunky at best.

The plot, such as it is, pits Laura against young African-American adoptee Destiny (Yara Shahidi), a precocious talent who is her only real competition for this year's top prize. The other contestants are daffy cat fancier Carol-Ann (Kristen Schaal) and Brooke (Olivia Wilde), an avaricious stripper with her hooks into Laura's husband (Ty Burrell) for services rendered but not paid. Laura devises a pre-emptive strike involving her high school beau Boyd (a never-worse Hugh Jackman), now a Stetson-wearing car salesman.

Garner is tiresome in her paper-thin role. Her perky shrew ("Sorry I was born tall, white and pretty!") wears thin without any humanizing undertones. Shahidi, who is irresistibly cute, and Wilde, playing her hellcat role to the hilt and then some, overshadow her at every turn, but there's just so much they can do to inflate this leaky balloon. Even the end-credits blooper reel is mirthless. "Butter" is rancid.

Colin Covert • 612-673-7186