Lee Daniels' The Butler - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Lee Daniels' The Butler Reviews

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Wesley Morris
Grantland
January 3, 2014
It's not an interpretation of actual history as much as it is a reduced revision of movie history.
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Trevor Johnston
Time Out
November 12, 2013
The Butler proves a decent, significant, but slightly stodgy affair. Its dignified restraint stifles its anger.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/5
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Mara Reinstein
Us Weekly
September 22, 2013
Amusing stunt casting aside, it's riveting to observe how civil rights evolved from inside the Oval Office
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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David Denby
New Yorker
September 2, 2013
A high-minded, didactic, but irresistible entertainment ...
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James Berardinelli
ReelViews
August 18, 2013
Forest Whitaker imbues his part with immense dignity and the old-age makeup is effective showcasing Cecil during his later years.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Michael Sragow
Orange County Register
August 16, 2013
[A] turbulent, emotionally overpowering movie.
Full Review | Original Score: B
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Peter Rainer
Christian Science Monitor
August 16, 2013
Winfrey is good, though, demonstrating yet again that she's an actress and not just a celebrity playing an actress.
Full Review | Original Score: B-
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Lisa Kennedy
Denver Post
August 16, 2013
A history lesson in violence and endurance. A sentimental journey. A tribute. Director Daniels and the dedicated cast of The Butler deliver all that.
Read More | Original Score: 3.5/4
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Steven Boone
RogerEbert.com
August 16, 2013
Daniels directs in about five styles at once, like a Bollywood maestro. No, it's not a musical, but it makes plenty of visual music.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Liam Lacey
Globe and Mail
August 16, 2013
The Butler may be a sanctimonious cartoon, but it points to events in the civil rights struggle that were as grotesque and extraordinary as any fiction can invent.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
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Tom Long
Detroit News
August 16, 2013
"The Butler" mixes big issues and big people and real human life with surprising grace.
Full Review | Original Score: B+
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Stephen Whitty
Newark Star-Ledger
August 16, 2013
It's too obviously a careful tour through American history, and while some sequences work - particularly the various attacks on civil-rights workers - too much of it feels as flat and cheap as a film strip.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
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Richard Roeper
Richard Roeper.com
August 15, 2013
Forest Whitaker gives the performance of his career.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/5
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Dana Stevens
Slate
August 15, 2013
The director's sometimes absurd bravado-along with Forest Whitaker's grave, wise performance in the title role-is what gives this outsized and sometimes lumbering film its irrefutable emotional power.
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John Anderson
Washington Post
August 15, 2013
"Lee Daniels' The Butler" might have been titled "Lee Daniels' Forrest Gump" - its hero challenged morally rather than mentally, but watching history in Gumpian fashion, as a series of cameos viewed through a slightly clueless daze.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
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Ben Sachs
Chicago Reader
August 15, 2013
The movie's a mess, but a unique and provocative one.
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Mick LaSalle
San Francisco Chronicle
August 15, 2013
"The Butler" is a nice idea for a movie, but has a mostly silly script and some of the craziest and most laughable casting imaginable.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
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Ty Burr
Boston Globe
August 15, 2013
Remarkable not for its "Forrest Gump"-itude but for its unerring social portrait of a black middle class torn by the stress-fractures of an era.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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Claudia Puig
USA Today
August 15, 2013
Both deeply affecting and blatant Oscar bait.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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John Hartl
Seattle Times
August 15, 2013
Even at its worst, it prefers to stimulate rather than launch another noisy parade of stereotypes.
Read More | Original Score: 3/4
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August 15, 2013
Packed with stunt casting and distracting performances.
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Steven Rea
Philadelphia Inquirer
August 15, 2013
The Butler is an inspiring and important summation of the black struggle.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Kenneth Turan
Los Angeles Times
August 15, 2013
This is one significant film where less would have been a whole lot more.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/5
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Joe Morgenstern
Wall Street Journal
August 15, 2013
Fiction merges with fact, and finally soars.
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Joe Neumaier
New York Daily News
August 15, 2013
A singularly full-hearted and moving film.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/5
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Rene Rodriguez
Miami Herald
August 15, 2013
When compared to something as patronizing and manipulative as "Forrest Gump," "Lee Daniels' The Butler" comes off as an earnest crowd-pleaser with history on its side.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
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Peter Travers
Rolling Stone
August 15, 2013
There's no denying the stumbles that mar this alternately riveting and risible historical epic. Yet Lee Daniels' The Butler holds you, provokes you and ultimately moves you.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
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Kristin Tillotson
Minneapolis Star Tribune
August 15, 2013
"The Butler" has all the ingredients to conduct a "for your consideration" campaign come Oscar time - it's noble, poignant, historically important.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Rafer Guzman
Newsday
August 15, 2013
Strong work from the three stars as a family splintered by Civil Rights-era tensions, but the film too often resorts to easy sentiment and simple caricatures.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
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Joe Williams
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
August 15, 2013
The forced mash-up of "Forrest Gump" and "The Remains of the Day" leaves a bit too much machine oil on the shag carpet, but Whitaker is there to clean it up.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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A.O. Scott
New York Times
August 15, 2013
A brilliantly truthful film on a subject that is usually shrouded in wishful thinking, mythmongering and outright denial.
Read More | Original Score: 5/5
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Michael Phillips
Chicago Tribune
August 15, 2013
Like America itself, the movie's a stimulating tangle.
Read More | Original Score: 2.5/4
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Bill Goodykoontz
Arizona Republic
August 15, 2013
Make no mistake, Daniels is gunning for awards here; the movie has that sheen, that Big Important Feel. But the performances keep it grounded.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/5
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Andrew O'Hehir
Salon.com
August 15, 2013
"Lee Daniels' The Butler" is big, brave, crude and contradictory, very bad in places and very good in others, and every American should see it.
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Laremy Legel
Film.com
August 15, 2013
Full of truth that's ultimately diluted by a lack of focus.
Full Review | Original Score: 6.4/10
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Peter Howell
Toronto Star
August 15, 2013
The film covers a lot of ground with many players, sometimes risking collapse, but it never lets us forget the quest for wholeness at the heart of the story.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
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Ben Kenigsberg
AV Club
August 15, 2013
Mostly, the movie is a straightforward soap opera-sentimental, reductive, and, in spite of itself, satisfying.
Full Review | Original Score: B-
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Stephanie Zacharek
Village Voice
August 13, 2013
Sometimes it's too didactic or sentimental. But unlike Daniels's previous pictures, Precious and The Paperboy, it doesn't pretend to audacious storytelling.
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Jocelyn Noveck
Associated Press
August 13, 2013
Daniels and company may not have made a masterpiece, but they have made a film you should see.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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Todd McCarthy
Hollywood Reporter
August 12, 2013
Even with all contrivances and obvious point-making and familiar historical signposting, Daniels' The Butler is always engaging, often entertaining and certainly never dull.
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David Edelstein
New York Magazine/Vulture
August 12, 2013
You can object to the thuggish direction and the script that's a series of signposts, but not the central idea, which is genuinely illuminating.
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Lou Lumenick
New York Post
August 12, 2013
A star-filled, if heavy-handed, labor of love that certainly has its heart in the right place, and scores dramatically often enough to recommend it.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
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Keith Uhlich
Time Out
August 9, 2013
Screenwriter Danny Strong treats history like the ultimate "then this happened!" checklist.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/5
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Scott Foundas
Variety
August 9, 2013
Whitaker digs in deep and gives a marvelous under-the-skin performance; he seems to catch the very essence of a man who has spent his whole life trying not to be seen.
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Alonso Duralde
TheWrap
August 8, 2013
It's too bad Daniels seemingly felt compelled to fish for tears, because The Butler has no shortage of powerful scenes and memorable performances.
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Eric Kohn
indieWIRE
August 8, 2013
...a saccharine civil rights lesson -- but that's why it works.
Full Review | Original Score: B
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Chris Nashawaty
Entertainment Weekly
August 7, 2013
An ambitious, sweeping period drama that manages to be incredibly affecting and feel as if the words ''For Your Consideration'' are stamped across every frame.
Full Review | Original Score: B+