“The Nut Job” stars Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Gabriel Iglesias, Jeff Dunham, Liam Neeson, and Katherine Heigl. Released on January 17, 2014, the film is about a purple squirrel who recruits a group of park animals to help him rob a nut shop.
The film is directed by Peter Lepeniotis, who served as an animator for films such as Toy Story 2 and Dinosaur. It is based on the 2005 animated short, Surly Squirrel, by Lepeniotis. With the release of the animated sequel, The Nut Job 2, heading our way, I decided to look back at its predecessor to see whether or not it is worthy of spawning a new animated franchise. The last time I saw this film was actually more than three years ago during its original theatrical run. I remember not liking it for a few reasons, including the main character. Looking back at it now for the first time since then, it’s possible that my opinion may change a little bit, but let’s find out, anyway.
The story takes place in a fictional town of Oakton City, where a group of furry animals are facing a food shortage issue. Because, you know, animals need food to survive the harsh wintery days. But when a thieving purple squirrel named Surly (Arnett) makes the situation even worse, he wound up being banished from the clan. He later comes across a nut shop and decides to steal every piece of nut that is stored in the building, but he might need a little help from the other animals if he wants to accomplish that goal. To put it in a more simpler perspective, it is a kid-friendly version of every heist film that we’ve seen countless times. Not only that, but it also expresses the theme of friendship. While the little ones will be entertained by the cartoonish shenanigans from the park animals, it sadly didn’t do any favors for movie buffs and animation lovers alike. The film’s story has plenty of predictable and mediocre moments that are destined to get nitpicked by almost everyone, and it doesn’t get any better as it went on. There were a few things that I found entertaining, however, including the end credit sequence where the characters dance to PSY’s hit song “Gangnam Style”, but that’s about it. I wonder if the sequel will include another song from PSY. The animation wasn’t something to write about either. While not as bad as…Oh, I don’t know, Norm of the North, it does look pretty bland and uninteresting. I think the biggest offender of this film would have to be the characters. Ranging from obnoxious to forgettable, these animals gave me a hard time to grow attached to them during their quest to retrieve some nuts. On the plus side, the cast did a decent job with their vocal performances. I thought Arnett was a good choice to voice Surly because his voice matches his rude personality almost perfectly. The only downside to this is that his mean-spiritedness can be a bit much for those who wanted a more respectable animated character that their kids can relate to. This is one of the reasons why I didn’t like the film that much, and after watching it today, my reason remains unchanged. Probably my least favorite character in the film would have to be the idiotic Grayson, voiced by Brendan Fraser. At some points, he’s a glory-hogging nutcase (no pun intended), but later on in the film, he can become a big pain in the butt. This squirrel will make you tear your hair apart the moment he appears onscreen. My respectable tip to all you future voice actors out there: Loud and annoying does not always equal funny, so be careful. The only character that is actually smarter than the other animals is Andie, voiced by Heigl, who teams up with Surly to secure the nuts. That reminds me, why isn’t she the main character? The humor has some chuckle-worthy moments here and there, but during certain times, they just included the “nut” lines just to force in a laugh from the kids.
Overall, “The Nut Job” has its share of moments that the younger viewers will go nuts for, but it will also make movie buffs and animation lovers go nuts for all the wrong reasons. With its mediocre plot, uninteresting animation, and characters that are either annoying, mean-spirited, or just plain forgettable, this is one heist that is best left undone. I don’t think it’s necessary for the filmmakers to develop a sequel to this unless they got something that’ll make it a bit better than the original. I highly doubt it, but I won’t know for sure until I see it for myself this weekend. If you’re interested in seeing it, it’s available to watch on Amazon Prime as of this writing. Otherwise, go watch the adult-rated heist films.