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No mystery here: ‘The Butler’ doesn’t do it

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Occasionally moving, sweeping in ambition yet often haphazard in execution, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” is an epic that more closely resembles a made-for-TV movie or miniseries, albeit one from the high-minded heyday of TV movies, the ‘70s. Think “Backstairs at the White House,” if your memory goes that far back.

Covering more than 80 years of American history through the eyes of a White House butler and his family — decades of strife and conflict, from segregation to the election of Barack Obama to the presidency — “The Butler” features Oscar winner Forest Whitaker in the title role, Oscar nominee Oprah Winfrey as co-star, and Oscar winners Robin Williams, Jane Fonda, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Vanessa Redgrave in supporting roles. The director of “Precious” is like catnip to actors.

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