It’s easy to not go nuts about the children’s animated flick, The Nut Job. While the film looks warm and appealing, it is let down by an unoriginal plot, an unlikeable lead character and lots of bad jokes. It’s ultimately a by-the-numbers kids’ action film that is predictable and easily forgotten.

The story was originally a short by veteran animator, Peter Lepeniotis. This may have contributed to the fact that the source material feels like it has been spread a little thin. The film marks Lepeniotis’ directorial debut and has a solid cast of voice talent including: Liam Neeson, Brendan Fraser, Katherine Heigl and Jeff Dunham. The special features on the Blu-ray version are rather average and just feature some deleted scenes.

Surly the Squirrel is the film’s ugly, anti-star and is voiced by Will Arnett. Surly is a lying, scheming character who likes to act selfishly and alone despite living in a collective of animals in Liberty Park. Surly and his bumbling and virtually mute best friend, Buddy the Rat inadvertently destroy the park’s meagre food supply. These stores were going to serve the park’s residents for the winter so lead raccoon (Neeson) steps in and banishes the mischievous pair from their homes.

But the duo’s luck changes when they stumble across a nut-shop and plan a heist. These two aren’t the only ones to hatch a hair-brained plan. The shop is also the headquarters for a clichéd group of bank robbers who are planning their own attack. Along the way Surly meets the thieves’ charming dog Precious (Maya Rudolph) and is given the choice of stealing the nuts for himself or for the greater good of the park community.

The overall tone of the film sits somewhere between a robbery caper and a Looney Tunes cartoon. The story is too detailed for younger kids to follow but not complex enough for the adults to enjoy. The jokes are made up of too many bad nut puns and slapstick that is neither clever nor witty (and the addition of the Psy novelty hit, “Gangnam Style” might feel like fingers down a chalk board for some viewers). The result is a film that lacks the sophistication of the Pixar classics or the recent family-friendly films, Paddington and Shaun the Sheep.

The Nut Job could have appealed to all ages with its fun style and mad-cap mayhem but it fails to hit the mark for both kids and adults. The plot and execution suffer from various maladies and Surly is unlikely to have a wide appeal. This means that this is at best a seemingly pleasant, animated film, which may have some good moments but it is hardly excellent. Ah nuts.


Originally published on 30 March 2015 at the following website:

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