THE NUT JOB – The Review
Underwhelming is the word for THE NUT JOB, an animated kidflick that’s nowhere in the same league as films like DESPICABLE ME 2 or THE CROODS. Instead it’s more like last year’s TURBO or maybe HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA. Pixar aside, CG-animated films tend to be an interchangeable bunch. There’s invariably a gang of wiseacre animals, a starry cast and a climactic pursuit. THE NUT JOB doesn’t break the trend so much as tick every box, and while the film, based on director Peter Lepeniotis’ 2005 short “Surly Squirrel”, looks great and tries hard to earn our affection, its mediocre script and lack of memorable characters bring it down a few grades.
The story is set in fictional city of Oakton in the 1950’s, where a nut shortage is threatening the existence of the local park animals. Surly (gruffly voiced by Will Arnett) is a seasoned, tough-talking squirrel who, along with his slow-witted mute rat friend Buddy, is banished by his animal brethren, led by Raccoon (Liam Neeson), for their part in the destruction of their tree home and the winter’s food supply stored within. Surly is exiled to the big city where he and a pair of new squirrel friends, Andie (Katherine Heigl) and Grayson (Brendan Fraser), discovers a nut shop run by some human criminal types lead by King (Stephen Lang). The store is located adjacent to a bank, and the mobsters plan on tunnelling in to rob money just as Surly and his gang plan to steal the store’s nut supply, using everything from dog whistles to dynamite to pull off their own big heist.
Director Peter Lepeniotis does a decent job of paralleling the two capers, but the story is overly familiar. The comedy, what there is of it, is lightly amusing without earning any big laughs. Small children may like the wiseacre Surly and admire his courage, but Arnett’s vocals have an abrasive, hostile quality rendering him unlovable, and all the squirrel characters seem interchangeable. The only stand out is Precious the bug-eyed Pug (voiced by Maya Rudolph) who steals the show. Visually, THE NUT JOB is stunning, a miraculously textured piece of animated design with every squirrel hair approaching photorealism. But an animated movie obviously has to come through on the “story and character” front as well, and in that regard, this film disappoints. THE NUT JOB was financed via South Korean money which explains the presence of a computer-animated Psy who sings his hit “Gangnam Style” over the end credits. Ultimately the basic problem with THE NUT JOB is that, among kidflicks of this sort, it’s neither great nor terrible, just average.
2 1/2 of 5 Stars