Review: The Nut Job
PLOT: After being banished to the big city, a self-serving squirrel named Surly discovers a mob run nut shop. Unwittingly he finds himself working with the very animals who voted to banish him to try and steal the nuts to feed the neighboring park.
If you are looking for an animated flick with tons of fart jokes, irrelevant and outdated references to Psy’s hit single “Gangnam Style” or the Angry Birds video game, have I got a movie for you! For the rest of us however, THE NUT JOB is nothing to go nuts over… Yeah, I went there. This is a grating and dull experience for most adults, but truth be told your children may love it. This homage to gangster flicks and collection of lame pop culture references has enough slapstick to give the young ones a giggle. At least this children’s flick has a bit of a dark streak as opposed to the ever-so-chipper SMURFS.
The story follows Surly (Will Arnett), a tough as nails and street-smart squirrel. This independent creature only looks out for number one, although he gets a little help from his dimwitted and silent rat friend. At odds with a society of creatures led by Raccoon (Liam Neeson), this lone wolf of a squirrel attempts to steal the nuts from a local nut cart – one that is run by a fellow who assaults an obnoxious girl scout and its supposedly funny. Raccoon himself sends their best squirrel Grayson (Brendan Fraser) as well as Andie (Katherine Heigl) to get the nuts before the selfish Surly gets his paws on it. The heist is an utter disaster leaving the entire park without food for the winter… apparently the animals can only survive off of stealing nuts from humans. Ultimately, Surly is banished into the city where he discovers a mob run nut shop which leads to a convoluted crime caper.
Let me start off with giving slight praise to the film as the animation is quite good. This collection of critters is pretty adorable including a little pug named Precious voiced by Maya Rudolph. Both Surly and Andie are charmingly animated leads that will certainly help sell a plush toy or two. Visually you could do much worse when it comes to animation. Even the 3D is serviceable, especially when the nut cart explodes and a massive amount of popcorn pops right off the screen in your face. Yet the explosive ball of fire looks a little too photo-realistic in accordance with the rest of the film, coming across as more parody than inspiration. It’s a shame that this collection of pokes and jokes feels far more in league with mockery as opposed to paying tribute.
Based on director Peter Lepeniotis’ short “Surly Squirrel” from 2005, THE NUT JOB struggles with the balance of creating a family friendly cartoon as well as a more mature oriented entertainment. The jokes are obvious and cater to the young ones with tons of flatulence inspired humor. As for the story itself, it is far more adult oriented. This works wonders in the charmingly fun original short which even featured a little bit of swearing courtesy of Surly and a few other characters. At no point was there need to cute things up and make it all pretty. “Surly Squirrel” takes place during a bank robbery with guns blasting and ammunition exploding around the characters as Surly and Raccoon battle for a slice of pizza. Sure it also uses bird poop, but in a far more inventive way than the feature film.
The family friendly feature starring Surly the Squirrel works a little too hard for laughs. A little slapstick and a lot of spoof ultimately serve up a few laughs to the very young. THE NUT JOB tries desperately to keep the slightly adult oriented humor of the short while dumbing it down and making it all cute and cuddly. The cast is fine and do what they can - Liam Neeson and Maya Rudolph are always a treat. Yet for the life of me, the little bits of pop culture infused fun are dated and sort of random. The final message seems insincere, especially when the end credits appear. This head scratching credits feature a goofy music video style number starring an animated Psy – along with the films characters - dancing to “Gangnam Style”… What the f*ck was the point of that? With few laughs, barely tolerable characters and over-the-top action, THE NUT JOB clumsily makes the transition from short to feature film.