The Nut Job is a nutty heist movie your kids will probably love even if you don’t
Featuring the talents of Will Arnett, Liam Neeson, Maya Rudolph, Katherine Heigl, Jeff Dunham and Brendan Fraser, ‘The Nut Job’ is an animated heist movie that offers nutty antics that your kids might love even if you don’t fully appreciate them.
Will Arnett is one of my favorite people to watch on television, and I believe his voice lends itself particularly well to animation. That being said, I was interested in seeing him as the lead character Surly in The Nut Job, which is the latest animated feature from Gulfstream Pictures, Red Rover International and ToonBox Entertainment.
As Surly, Arnett’s signature brand of sarcasm and overall likeability are utilized well. The Nut Job is a heist-within-a-heist movie. Let me break the plot down for you in a nutshell (pun intentional). On the one hand, several mobsters have set up shop as the new proprietors of Maury’s Nut Store, which happens to be in proximity to a bank they’re casing for a robbery. On the other hand, Surly is a rather determined squirrel who is casing the nut shop for a heist of his own to collect enough food to last him through the winter. Will both heists succeed or will one group’s efforts thwart those of the other?
After being banished from the park due to his selfish tendencies, Surly is a renegade squirrel who sets out to prove to himself and others that he is more than meets the eye. Although he’d have his brethren in the park believe that he only cares about looking out for numero uno, we discover he does in fact care about his fellow creatures and their perception of him as the plot unfolds. I especially loved the relationship between him and his sidekick, Buddy the Rat (who is also the only creature who doesn’t speak). There are several tender moments between the two friends that touched my heart and made me smile, even if Buddy feels and looks like a knock-off character from the much-stronger Ratatouille. And while we’re on the subject of borrowed elements from other animated features, didn’t I see a similar story about animals plotting to take food from humans in Over the Hedge? Hmm …
I think overall The Nut Job was cast well. Brendan Fraser is absolutely perfect as Grayson, the conceited park hero who looks more the part of a hero than actually exhibits the bravery, intelligence or leadership required to be one. Liam Neeson makes the ideal villain (would you really expect anything less?) as Raccoon, the corrupted “Godfather-esque” leader of the park who always appears with his trusty bird sidekick on his shoulder and declares that everything must be “done for the good of the park!” While Katherine Heigl was believable as the lead female squirrel Andie, and Jeff Dunham was as hilarious as always as Mole, it’s Maya Rudolph’s turn as Precious the pug that was easily my favorite standout performance. She got the mannerisms of a simple-minded, easily excitable dog down to a hilarious tee.
However, despite having the heist-within-a-heist plot and phenomenal voice talent, The Nut Job just didn’t have what it takes to dazzle me. Sometimes it felt like too much was going on with both heists. Sometimes it felt like the humor was either trying too hard or falling a little flat. I can’t remember laughing aloud more than a few times (Arnett does deliver some really great lines such as when he eats too much cheese and proclaims that he’s about to have a cheese baby), and I love cartoons! The absence of really boisterous laughter from both adults and children alike was noted all around me.
This was odd because I cover a lot of animated movies and children usually giggle and repeat catchphrases as their favorite characters say them. If I had to hazard some guesses, I’d say maybe some of the heist plot was difficult for the smaller children to comprehend. There were so many plot twists it was hard to follow each character’s true motivations at times. And if I’m being honest in regards to the adults in attendance, maybe they’ve just seen better in terms of humorous writing and delivery. Actually, as long as I’m being completely honest, the funniest part of the movie occurred during the ending credits – an animated Psy pops up to do “Gangnam Style” with all of the characters from the movie. That’s something you don’t want to miss even if you do think that song is sooo 2012.
I don’t mean to sound too harsh. Overall, The Nut Job is a movie I think your kids will enjoy even if it doesn’t quite have as much broad adult appeal as other animated features. The overall lesson is a good one for people of all ages to learn: Life isn’t always for the taking, sometimes it’s all about the sharing. While I think that’s a wonderful lesson to share with your kids, I’d probably wait and rent this one if given the choice of sharing it on the big screen surrounded by strangers in sticky seats or cozied up comfortably with your family on the couch at home.