They had a terrific article from which to pen this screenplay and they failed to take the depth of that story and transfer it to the screen.
It seemed to me a pretentious piece of propaganda - not slanted in favor of African Americans necessarily but slanted in favor of those liberals who seemed intent on attempting to NOT balance the clearly chosen and selectively personal memories (JFK) with characatures of less charismatic presidents (Johnson and Nixon). It was either clowns or kings. Too simple. Too shallow.
And Robin Williams as Ike? Ummm.
Oprah failed to deliver as an actress. Her business skills produced a vast Empire - no doubt. She seemed to be playing "Oprah playing Oprah's character what's-her-name". And OMG the cigarettes! Big Tobacco was attacked simply by forcing the theater viewers to believe that EVERY PERSON in the 1950's was a chain smoker. It was pedantic and painful to watch. Especially when her character dies with a portable oxygen tank attached to her nose. I make no excuses for smoking, I simply "call the game" on the portrayals in this film. They are weak - seemingly chosen for their philosophies rather than their acting chops.
The Empress simply has no clothes.
Additionally, the character development in the film was as thin and veiled as the underlying messages were clear and purposefully "progressive". The only 3 real exceptions were (a) the relationship between the two sons/brothers. I laughed out loud throughout their dialog - all 45 seconds of it. (Just kidding on the time amount, but not by much.) and (b) Alan Rickman's portrayal of Reagan. (Really.)
Finally the historical non-public policy nature of the Butler's life was juxtaposed with President Obama's election. It all went weird at the end. Ooooh. Not good. Too sycophantic by my standards.
The bias of the producers (the Weinstein Brothers) seemed to be splashed all over the screen. Though I could be wrong.
The pre-release PR advertised that The Butler SERVED 8 Presidents. Ok... Ike to Reagan equals 7. Did he serve Bush 41 or 43? Nope.
He "served" Obama? I suppose that's what they meant in their trailers. Hmmm.
Had a film been made that ended with such political pull in favor of either Bush 41/43 (or Reagan) such hushed and airbrushed awe would be followed by incessant howls of discontent by many of these same entertainers.
The Butler did not usher me into a place where I could applaud.