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THE NUT JOB 2: NUTTY BY NATURE - Review - We Are Movie Geeks

Review

THE NUT JOB 2: NUTTY BY NATURE – Review

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(Left to right) Surly (voiced by Will Arnett) and Andie (voiced by Katherine Heigl) in NUT JOB 2: NUTTY BY NATURE. Photo courtesy of Open Road Films / Distributor: Open Road Films ©

THE NUT JOB 2: NUTTY BY NATURE brings back the characters of the 2014 animated film THE NUT JOB for another round of puns and slapstick, in a sequel that is a bit better than the original. It works as a summer afternoon’s distraction for young kids but this unoriginal 3D animated movie won’t impress their parents much.

Instead of another heist plot, this time the animals are fighting to save their home from development. Surly Squirrel (Will Arnett), his wordless pal Buddy the rat, pug dog Precious (Maya Rudolph), and the other animals of Liberty Park in Oakton are living the easy life feasting on the contents of the town’s nut shop, even though red squirrel Andie (Katherine Heigl) thinks they should go back to a more natural life of foraging for food in the park. When they lose the nut shop, it looks like they will have to do just that – until Oakton’s evil Mayor decides to turn the open spaces and trees of Liberty Park into a money-making amusement park. The animals decide to fight back to save their home.

The first film was directed by Peter Lepeniotis, written by him and Lorne Cameron based on Lepeniotis’ short film SURLY SQUIRREL, with a voice cast that included Brendan Fraser and Liam Neeson. The first one was not a big hit (nor was expected to be) when released in January 2014 but apparently made enough money to spark a sequel. Neither the original writer/director nor some of the voice cast are back for this film. Cal Brunker directs the 3D animated sequel, which has some nice animation and inoffensive kid-friendly humor (and refreshingly free of potty humor for a change). But this is not the kind of animated film to really charm adults the way MINIONS, ZOOTOPIA, or other animated kids’ films did.

NUT JOB 2 has enough slapstick humor and general mayhem to entertain young kids but not much to offer the adults accompanying them. Adults do get a few jokes, mostly about corrupt greedy politicians, thanks to the film’s villain, the Mayor (voiced by Bobby Moynihan), and his obnoxious little spoiled brat daughter Heather (Isabela Moner). Heather’s pet is a none-too-bright Boston terrier named Frankie (Bobby Cannavale) who becomes smitten with the park animals’ pug pal Precious (Maya Rudolph), and becomes a pivotal part in the plot.

NUT JOB 2 might be a slight improvement on the first one. Will Arnett’s Surly has settled down into a bit of smart-mouthed rogue rather than the more unlikable character of the first film. He and Katherine Heigl’s Andie argue and don’t agree on how the animals should gather food – Surly thinks that living off the nut shop is fine while Andie thinks they should return to a more natural way of eating and living. Surly tries to impress Andie and get her attention, but is undermined by his own stubbornness and tendency to argue. Meanwhile, Moynihan’s rotund little Mayor tosses off lines like “Yeah, I got your bribe, I mean campaign contribution” and has decided to turn the park into an amusement park because parks full of trees and grass don’t make profits. To make even more money, the greedy Mayor is cutting corners by installing dangerously rickety rides.

The characters and plot are familiar stuff but both are more focused this time and the voice cast manages to add a little fun. Arnett and Heigl generate some charm as the bickering pair, where Surly undercuts his own attempts to flirt with Andie by arguing with her constantly. Surly’s funny-looking silent sidekick Buddy adds a touch of classic slapstick humor, rescuing the over-confident Surly from his own bad ideas and adding a touch of pathos at one point. Bobby Moynihan gives his over-the-top villain his all, aided by Isabela Moner as pig-tailed little monster Heather, who is so awful she’s scary (a variation on the spoiled girl in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”). Peter Stormare adds a bit of humor as Gunther, the German pest control expert the mayor hires to take out the pesky wildlife in the park.

The star addition to the cast for the sequel is Jackie Chan. Chan throws a lot of energy into his part as a furious kung fu mouse – “don’t call me cute!” is his tag line. But the character is cute – pure white and fuzzy, with big blue eyes, and looking a lot like the fuzzy, white domesticated bunny in SECRET LIFE OF PETS. It seems the filmmakers took a short cut to cute but audiences may be puzzled why the mice living in an alley behind a Chinese restaurant all look like refugees from a pet shop rather than normal gray/brown wild mice. Still, Jackie Chan’s voice work helps redeem the character a little, although the phrase “weapon of mouse destruction” gets repeated a lot. Actually, the film’s funniest moment is in the closing credits, shots of Jackie Chan energetically doing his voice work.

Fans of the first film may like this more coherent sequel but otherwise THE NUT JOB 2 is pretty forgettable stuff, and seems unlikely to generate a third movie. Still, it is not the year’s worst movie and parents who are looking for a summer movie young kids will enjoy but will not convey any bad messages are in safe territory here.

RATING: 2 out of 5 stars

 

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