Genre: Family, Comedy
Director: Peter Lepeniotis
Cast: Liam Neeson, Katherine Heigl, Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Stephen Lang, Sarah Gadon, Jeff Dunham
Release Date: January 17th, 2014
Surly (Will Arnett) is one nutty squirrel. Consistently causing trouble and undermining authority figures in his home– Liberty Park– this animated creature is banished from his community after his latest misadventure. When the commanding Raccoon (Liam Neeson) decides that Surly should be permanently removed, viagra 100mg Surly’s female friend Andie (Katherine Heigl) comes to his defense. She argues that he deserves a fair trial (when did animated features start stealing storylines from The Good Wife?) but a unanimous vote sends Surly into the cold dark city, where he must search for nuts to keep him fed during the long winter ahead.
Surly serves as the protagonist here but unfortunately, his name accurately defines his personality as it’s hard to find anything to like about this supposed “hero.” It’s easy to have sympathy for the character when he’s down on his luck but otherwise, there’s little reason to root for this little squirrel in the big city. Even his best friend— subtly named “Buddy” (Robert Tinkler) — has his issues with Surly. Who could blame him?
Back at the Park, the dominating raccoon –who of course is named Raccoon–realizes that the nut supply is running incredibly low so he sends Andie into the city to bring back a great food supply for the other animals. Raccoon, who operates like a four-legged member of The Sopranos, threatens, cajoles and manipulates the other creatures into trusting him. Eventually, Surly’s search for food coincides with Andie’s and the two find a perfect food source at Maury’s Nut Store.
Coincidentally, the owners of the Nut Store are thieves themselves– only their prized possession is the money at a local bank vault. A dichotomy is then set up between the squirrels stealing nuts and the criminals stealing money.
Director Peter Lepeniotis previously served as an animator on the brilliant Toy Story 2 but here he loses focus on what works in animated features. Despite the spoiled personality of Woody in the Toy Story trilogy, he was a character who could be sympathized with and one that the audience wanted to root for. The Nut Job offers no such characters and never establishes itself with a direction that feels fresh.
It never really even tries.
The feature’s best shot at humor lies with Grayson (Brandon Fraser), an uppity squirrel who barely knows his own name but who has somehow established himself as a folk hero. Grayson travels to the city with Andie but quickly loses his way. His character seemingly exists for comedic effect— he doesn’t do anything but everyone loves him— but none of his jokes really work, leading to another obvious missed opportunity.
At times, it feels like the film is aiming high and hoping to make some important point about the justice system (no trial for the put-upon Surly!) or stealing in general (are thieves simply animals trying to help themselves to what they believe is theirs?). Regardless of its intentions and despite its 86-minute runtime (it feels much longer), Nut Job never really gets the job done and will leave viewers feeling like they’ve been cheated out of money, in the same way that the crooks at the nut store feel like they were cheated out of nuts.
Review by: John Hanlon