The Nut Job
Directed by Peter Lepeniotis
Starring Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Gabriel Iglesias, Jeff Dunham, Liam Neeson, Katherine Heigl, Stephen Lang
Released on January 11, 2014
Running time: 1h 26m
Genre: Kids & Family, Comedy
Surly (adj.): Churlishly rude or bad-tempered, unfriendly or hostile, menacingly irritable.
Such is the name of our main character, Surly (Will Arnett), a … purple squirrel. Wait, what?
Our story involves a group of critters living in a park. They are led by Raccoon (Liam Neeson). They are collecting food for the winter (even though it’s clearly spring) and are severely lacking. They are constantly pestered by the purple squirrel (why?) Surly. And I find myself thinking, I want to know more about these guys. How have they survived previous years being this disorganized? How did they get to become this pseudo-democracy that is secretly communist? How did this raccoon come into power? How and why did Grayson (Brendan Fraser) get to almost Willie Scott levels of annoying with not just his annoyingness, but his cockiness and his out-of-nowhere homoerotic attraction to Surly?
Surly causes a major accident and gets himself banished from the park. He and his buddy find Maury’s Nut Shop (seriously? a store that just sells cashews and peanuts? wow.) at the same time as a four-person Sicilian mob led by Percy “King” Dimpleweed (Stephen Lang).
Seriously? Stephen King came up with a better mob boss name: Enrico Balazar from The Dark Tower.
Hell, I could come up with better mob boss names!
Vincente Marconi. Graziano Vecchiarelli. Luigi Ferrone. Oliviero Pezzano. Venanzio Calafiore. Malco Saracino. Jacquino Salzaratti.
There. I’ve now ousted Percy Dimpleweed as mob boss.
Oh, and another thing – why the hell does the finding of the nut store feature a recording of Gangnam Style? Oh, I know why! The same reason The Master of Disguise featured a ripoff of The Exorcist. Because it existed!
Andie (Katharine Heigl), a red squirrel and the obvious love interest, and Grayson (Dick?), a flamboyant, egotistical gray squirrel, under orders from Raccoon, go to find food, but are separated. Andie runs into Surly and the two make a deal to steal the nuts from the store and split them 50/50 between Surly and the Park Cult. Andie informs the Park Cult of the deal with Surly and the frigging clichéd plot unfolds.
Jeez…what the hell is up with our main character? He’s a douche! He treats his sidekick mute rat buddy, his might-have-been love interest, and his other compatriots like trash, he’s willing to let the entire Park Cult die simply because he wants food for the winter, he’s a coward, he’s an egomaniac, and seriously, a PURPLE SQUIRREL? What? Why? How?
I like Will Arnett (kind of). He’s played some very funny characters. But in The Nut Job, his comedic talent is wasted on the selfishness of Surly and his so-called redemption, which turns the plot of The Nut Job into nothing but the very tired, tedious horrible-piece-of-crap-to-hero cliché.
Films like Brother Bear and Open Season had less-than-awesome animation and characters, but it made up for that with great voicework, clever writing, and witty humor. Heck, I didn’t like Ratatouille that much, but the voicework was flawless, it was decently written, and I actually laughed several times. But The Nut Job fails in all three of those departments. At least the character animation is actually pretty good…for 2003. But this is 2015. Sure, big-budget animation studios have mastered fur textures, but can they at least make ground textures more high-res? But the humans in The Nut Job look dreadful and ugly, with big chins, dead eyes, and personalities to match. The writing is far from creative. I may have chuckled a few times, but I certainly was not laughing very hard.
I can only just forgive its short running time. Darkness Falls sinned a little more grievously in that area, coming to only an hour and fifteen minutes. While The Nut Job may come out to only an hour and twenty minutes (not including the end credits), I can forgive it because it’s a kids movie. Kids do not have that long of an attention span. That’s why The Last Airbender movie was only about an hour and forty minutes, rather than a three-and-a-half-hour motion picture epic. However, The Nut Job feels like it definitely ekes out its hour-and-twenty-five-minute cut, and then some. It felt at least two hours long. It feels very rushed, even though it felt like The Nut Job was taking forever to get to the next act. Some scenes cut off abruptly, while others stretch on for far too long.
The story, whenever it thinks it may be getting too stale and dry, punctuates itself with the occasional fart or burp joke, slapstick routine, or nut pun. Are they funny? Not the first time. Not the second. Not the fifth. Not the tenth. Not the hundredth. But be prepared, because The Nut Job operates these two jokes under this philosophy: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again, until every kid’s little mind can’t take it anymore.
The entire story gave me the feeling of I’ve seen all of this before. This is a halfhearted retread of other, superior animated flicks that have told this same story so much better than this does.
There is one character in this movie that almost reaches Jar Jar Binks levels of annoyance. No, not Grayson. I already said he reached Willie Scott levels of annoyance. Though his out-of-nowhere homoerotic attraction to Surly is indeed something to be reckoned with. There is this pointless blond chick that shows up in the movie for, like, a minute or two. She’s bleach-blonde, she’s very…curvy, and her voice gives Audrey (the human Audrey) from Little Shop of Horrors a run for her money.
If you want to watch a decent heist flick, go and watch The War Wagon. The Killing. Ocean’s 11. The Italian Job. Reservoir Dogs. Hell, go and watch Man on a Ledge!
Throwing all these clichés at us don’t make them seem new. Doing so just makes them silly, stupid, and dated.
While not ungodly bad, The Nut Job is a painfully below average flick that may mildly entertain your children.
But for adults, I’m not so sure.
Final verdict: 1 out of 5 stars.