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Not Much to Crunch on in Forgettable "Nut Job"

Movies & DVDs

Release Date: January 17, 2014
Rating: PG (for mild action and rude humor)
Genre: Animation, Comedy
Run Time: 86 minutes
Director: Peter Lepeniotis
Cast: Will Arnett, Liam Neeson, Katherine Heigl, Brendan Fraser, Maya Rudolph, Stephen Lang, Jeff Dunham, Sarah Gadon





Forget the popcorn; the perfect snack for this movie is a bowl of cereal. That's because The Nut Job is what Saturday morning cartoons would have been back in the day… if they had been an hour and a half long and available in 3D.

Times are hard in a city park that's home to a mixed group of animals. No matter how hard they all work together to store up food for the winter, there's just not enough. Oh wait, did I say "all" work together? Make that all except Surly (Will Arnett, The Secret World of Arrietty), a scrappy squirrel who lives up to his name. He's very much an "every animal for himself" kind of guy who blows off the park's democratic policies to stuff his own furry face. That makes him the archenemy of the park's citizenry, especially their leader Raccoon (Liam Neeson, Taken). The only one who sees any good in Surly is Andie (Katherine Heigl, Knocked Up), a pretty red squirrel who tries to break through Surly's tough guy exterior while fending off the unwanted advances of dimwitted park hero Grayson (Brendan Fraser, Escape from Planet Earth).

After Surly's latest escapade—a plan worthy of Wile E. Coyote and about as successful—results in the loss of the park's entire pantry, he's banished to the mean streets of the city. Dangers abound, but Surly stumbles across squirrel heaven in the guise of a nut shop. Together with his goofy (but devoted) sidekick, a rat named Buddy, Surly braves a maze of traps and the not-so-vicious guard dog, a pug named Precious (Maya Rudolph, Turbo). Ah, life is good, but... just what are those pinstripe-suited tough guys doing in the basement of a nut store?

Will Surly keep all the bounty for himself or can Andie persuade him to share with the starving animals he left behind? Who is the real villain here? There will be crosses and double-crosses, twists and turns before justice is served (with a side of nuts, of course).

While there is a half-hearted attempt to impart lessons on sharing and why it's not always important to take the credit even when it's due, The Nut Job is mostly just played for laughs. Fortunately, there are plenty of those to be had. Visual gags abound, the number of fart jokes is kept to a reasonable minimum, and the actors all do a fine job of voicing their critter characters. A special shout out should go to Fraser for his Dudley Do-Right take on Grayson, whose matinee idol looks are about all he's got going. The award for Best Critter in a Non-Speaking Role definitely goes to Buddy the Rat, whose expressive face says it all.

Unlike many recent 3D films (Walking With Dinosaurs, for example), there's no attempt here to make The Nut Job's animals look realistic. This is a cartoon all the way, which really works in its favor. Bad guys are so much more fun as cartoon stereotypes; police stereotypes (think donuts), not quite so much. There's nothing too scary for the tiny kids, and parents should enjoy the comedy. Both generations, however, will probably have forgotten the whole movie by the time they get to the parking lot.

The only discordant note came during the end credits: for some unknown reason the characters all joined an animated version of the singer Psy to dance Gangnam style. While it was mildly amusing, the song had no relevance to the movie and the "sexy lady" lyrics were inappropriate. Concerned parents can hustle kids out before that part comes along but they'll miss a final scene that serves to reassure any tenderhearted viewers about the fate of a certain angry bird.

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):

  • Drugs/Alcohol: None.
  • Language/Profanity: No profanity unless you count "Curse you, Surly" delivered in the style of Snively Whiplash. Several fart jokes (including an explosion) but nothing too rude.
  • Sex/Nudity: A little mild flirting is as far as it goes.
  • Violent/Frightening/Intense: There are several explosions, characters falling from heights, and a few other mildly menacing moments but all are cartoon-style so they shouldn't be too scary.
  • Spiritual Themes: There are several characters involved in theft; the main characters are wild animals so it's not like they have any other way to get food, but since they're planning what amounts to grand theft almond it might rate a conversation about the moral implications.

Publication date: January 17, 2014

Page Source (url): http://www.crosswalk.com/culture/movies/the-nut-job-movie-review.html

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