The trailer: After scoring big with 2009's Oscar-nominated Precious, director Lee Daniels stumbled with his offbeat follow-up The Paperboy, which is better-known as "that movie where Nicole Kidman pees on Zac Efron." But his follow-up film, The Butler — which hits theaters in October — is clearly angling to reclaim Daniels' former Oscar glory. The Butler, which is adapted from a 2008 Washington Post article by Wil Haygood, is based on the real-life story of White House butler Eugene Allen, who spent over 30 years serving eight presidential administrations through one of the most tumultuous times in American history. The film adaptation stars Forest Whitaker, who leads an all-star cast that includes numerous big-name actors playing U.S. presidents, including John Cusack (Richard Nixon), Robin Williams (Dwight Eisenhower), James Marsden (John F. Kennedy), and Alan Rickman (Ronald Reagan). Is The Butler already shaping up to be the film to beat at the 2014 Academy Awards?
The reaction: In the midst of blockbuster season, here's a trailer for a movie that "has Oscar written all over it," says Jill O'Rourke at Crushable. It's a historical drama, it's based on a true story, it comes from an Oscar-nominated director, and its trailer concludes with "a cast list that just doesn't end." Of course, The Butler's Oscar appeal is obvious, agrees Eric Eisenberg at CinemaBlend, with "one of the most impressive ensemble casts of recent memory," from Forest Whitaker to Oprah Winfrey to Terrence Howard to Melissa Leo to Vanessa Redgrave. But don't get distracted by all the stars, says Scott Beggs at Film School Rejects; it's also clear that the filmmakers "swung for the fences" with The Butler. Eugene Allen was born in 1919 and lived to see Barack Obama elected president, so there's no shortage of ground to cover. The real question: Can so many "trenchant, racially-charged years" be turned into a coherent, intimate film? We'll find out when The Butler hits theaters in October.