From five feet deep in a month known as the place to bury bad movies comes the animated feature “The Nut Job.” Will Arnett provides the voice for Surly, a selfish squirrel outcast who prefers to work only with his sidekick Buddy rather than cooperate with the other denizens of a city park.
Facing a food shortage in the coming winter, the other park creatures send two other squirrels, Andie (Katherine Heigl) and Grayson (Brendan Fraser), to raid food from a nut cart that Surly and Buddy are already trying to steal from. In the ensuing competition, the cart is hurled into the oak tree where the park’s creatures store their food, destroying it.
The leader of the park, Racoon (Liam Neeson), holds Surly responsible and holds a vote to banish him from the park. A unanimous decision forces Surly to leave the park and live in the surrounding city where he is harried by city rats and finds it difficult to locate food.
After being found by Buddy, the two find their way into the nut shop the cart was operating from. What they don’t realize is that the shop is just cover for a gang that is hoping to tunnel into the bank vault across the street and replace the money within with bags of nuts so their theft won’t be discovered until the gang has escaped.
Back at the park, the creatures are desperate and send Andie and Grayson on a mission to find food to replace the stores they lost. The two squirrels are separated when Grayson is forced to save the little remaining food Andie is carrying to supply them during their mission from a city rat.
Andie manages to locate Surly and Buddy as they are trying to get the dog whistle that controls the gangster’s guard pug, Precious (Maya Rudolph). Not knowing the significance of the whistle, she threatens to drop it if Surly doesn’t help her supply the park.
The squirrels agree that Andie will return to the park and get a crew to break in to the nut shop and split the spoils evenly. Both sides intend on double crossing the other, but when Raccoon learns of the bounty the park my get in the bargain, resolves to eliminate the crew so that his control over food resources will remain intact. That will ensure he remains the most important creature in the park.
“The Nut Job” has a few things going for it. The plot has potential and he animation is good. What it suffers from is flat voice work, a lack of character differentiation and an over reliance on cheap comedy. Every laugh is geared toward kids with no regard for the parents that are in the audience.
While I don’t expect an animated feature involving anthropomorphic park creatures to be intellectually stimulating, I do appreciate when there is something deeper going on.
“The Nut Job” does have an antihero that learns to sacrifice his own interests for the greater good, but the rest of the film has little to offer as each plot complication boils down to issues of trust between characters.
Leah and Patrick did have a good time at “The Nut Job.” The comedy was perfect for their age group, after all. Neither of them thought it was the best animated movie they’ve seen recently. With that, I agree.