The Nut Job

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the fictional city of Oakton City in 1959, a selfish purple squirrel named Surly (Will Arnett) and his rat partner Buddy who does not talk much reside in Liberty Park and their thieving reputation has made them outcasts. A group of urban animals led by Raccoon (Liam Neeson) and his Cardinal assistant (who mostly chirps) store food for winter in a giant tree in the park called Liberty Park. Raccoon is informed by his servant Mole (Jeff Dunham) that there is a food shortage in the park. Surly and Buddy’s attempt to rob a peanut cart goes haywire when it is impeded by Raccoon’s helpers, a compassionate red squirrel named Andie (Katherine Heigl) and the “park hero”, a gray squirrel named Grayson (Brendan Fraser) whose heroic antics prove to be incompetent. The selfish Surly ignores Andie’s help and tries to get a bag of nuts while the owner Lucky and his associate Fingers gets distracted by a bratty girl scout customer and a police officer that the girl issues her complaint to. The heist also gets invaded by Lucky’s pet pug named Precious (Maya Rudolph). After fending her off by having her bite the pipe of a propane tank, Surly and Buddy escape with the cart and Andie manages to guide it to Liberty Park. Surly threatens Andie and Grayson with a torch, unwilling to share the food, but accidentally causes it to ricochet across the park. Although the animals (except for Grayson) get off safely, the cart is sent into the tree, where it explodes along with the tree and the animals’ food supply. Grayson however, survives the ordeal. When Surly is identified as the culprit by the Groundhog Bruisers Jimmy (Gabriel Iglesias), Johnny, and Jamie, Raccoon banishes him from Liberty Park following a unanimous vote forcing him to survive in the city.

Buddy attempts to be with Surly who tells him to leave after he unknowingly contributed to his exile. After escaping from wild street rats, they find a nut store called Maury’s Nut Shop and attempt to rob it to feed themselves. After entering the store, they discover that it is a criminal hideout used by Lucky, Fingers, their mob boss Percy “King” Dimplewade (Stephen Lang) who has recently gotten out of jail, his silent partner Knuckles, and his girlfriend Lana (Sarah Gadon). Raccoon sends Andie and Grayson to find food only for them to get separated upon Grayson fighting a street rat. Precious also serves as the guard dog there and King plans to rob the Oaken Bank and replace the cash with nuts. Surly and Buddy see that the only way to get to the nuts and to avoid Precious is with a dog whistle that Lucky has. The two of them are thrown out by Knuckles since he can hear it. While trying to find the whistle, Surly crosses paths with Andie who gets the whistle and threatens to dispose of it if Surly does not share the food he’s going to take. Reluctantly, Surly accepts and unwittingly befriends Precious after threatening her with the whistle. Andie informs the park community of the plan. Although they have a lack of faith in Surly, Raccoon and the rest of the park community agree to go along with it. Andie gets help from Mole and the Bruisers.

When the first attempt to rob the store fails, Surly eventually learns from Andie that Raccoon planned on double crossing him and Surly leaves after an argument even when Grayson catches up to the group. After Surly and Precious catch Mole in the act of sabotage, he confesses that Raccoon is a power-hungry con artist who keeps food from the animals to have his leadership kept and only Mole and Cardinal know about it. Andie and the others are unconvinced at Raccoon’s plot as King begins his heist. After fending off the street rats that worked for Raccoon, the two squirrels ends up chasing after King’s truck that Raccoon and the other animals are on while Grayson fights off Cardinal who is sent flying into the window of a building where the Oakton City Cat Show is being held. While in the truck, Mole defects from Raccoon and reveals this info to the animals with Surly resulting in Raccoon being voted out of the park community at Grayson’s suggestion. King and Knuckles uses the dynamite inside the empty truck to blow the police out, but it hangs and falls over the bridge where it explodes, after Surly gets himself and Andie off it before they fall into the river. Surly makes it to a log, but finds Raccoon, King and Knuckles surviving the explosion. Raccoon tries to kill Surly, but the nuts weight begins to break the log. The animals arrive to rescue them, but Surly, decides to be selfless in order to protect his friends, lets go of the log and falls down into the waterfall with Raccoon apparently. The park community, now seeing the good side of Surly, mourn him in honor of the most selfless act he committed in years.

The food makes its way into the Liberty Park, where the animals gather around in joy as their food troubles are over. King and his associates are arrested as Lana appears to end her relationship with King. Andie and Buddy are still mourning over Surly and when Precious finds out what happened to her friend, she eventually finds Surly’s apparent dead body near the river. She has Buddy come and look at it. Doleful to see his best friend gone, Buddy says his first two words “best friend”. Surly reveals that he was actually unconscious and hugs Buddy and Precious licks Surly’s face (which she wanted to do since she got involved in Surly’s heist) and leaves to meet up with Lana who plans to run Maury’s Nut Shop in Lucky’s place. Finding that Surly is alright, Andie embraces him and tries to get him to come to the other animals so he can tell of his heroism. But Surly, feeling as though it was the other animals that were the true heroes, refuses yet gains a willingness to work with others. He goes into the city with Buddy allowing Grayson to take credit for the food making it to the park.

During the credits, the animals and humans dance with an animated PSY as he performs “Gangnam Style.” In a mid-credits scene, Raccoon and Cardinal are shown to have survived their ordeal and are sulking on a harbor buoy surrounded by sharks while trying to come up with another plan. In the post-credits, Precious chases Mole who is holding a bone that Precious wants. Mole drives Precious away with the dog whistle.

REVIEW:

What is it that is uttered in just about every episode of the first couple of season of Game of Thrones? Ah yes, “Winter is coming!” In a way, that could be the mantra for The Nut Job, as these animals search for food. Simple enough, right? One would think, but how complicated and convoluted did these filmmakers decide to make it?

What is this about?

When his grouchy attitude gets him kicked out of the park, Surly the squirrel hatches a plan to rob Maury’s Nut Shop to stock up for winter.

What did I like?

Detail. It wasn’t that long ago that we were in awe of what computer animation was capable of doing. Just look at Brave for a point of reference. Watching this, you can see a great deal of care and attention that was paid to not only the fur on the animals, but also the fabric on the clothes. In particular, I noticed a scene where the mobsters were wearing janitor uniforms and you could see the fabric pattern. While I am still not a fan of computer animation, I will give credit where credit is due, so kudos to what these animators have done.

Voices. As with most animated films, at least the ones that are major releases, the voice cast is quite impressive. Some names and voices are instantly recognizable, such as Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Liam Neeson, but a few aren’t as instantly recognizable, such as Maya Rudolph, Gabriel Iglesias, Katherine Heigl, etc. None do a bad job, and all fit their characters.

Roll credits. As the credits roll, we are treated to an animated version of the hit song “Gangnam Style”, complete with all the characters dancing and an animated version on Psy singing and dancing along. A common trope that among family films, especially animated ones, and some comedies seems to be the end credits dance scene. While this has gotten a little old, it was a nice touch throwing in this song, which was majorly popular when this was being made.

What didn’t I like?

Time, time, time. This is set in the 1950s, as you can tell because the human ancillary characters resemble their counterparts in The Incredibles. However, the music doesn’t fit, specifically the end credits song. Wouldn’t it have been more fitting to use a song from this era? On youtube, there is a channel that specializes in making current songs retro. Perhaps that would have worked if they insisted on using “Gangnam Style.”

Taken the nuts. There was a time when Liam Neeson was a highly respected dramatic actor. Somewhere along the way, he decided to just take action roles and now this. Now, it is possible he did this for his kids. Sometimes actors will do that so the kids can see something they are in. However, this is not a good role for Neeson. He is above this mediocre material. I also must question what kind of mutant raccoon looks like this? I couldn’t tell if he was a bear, raccoon, badger, or something else!

Stewie syndrome. Talking animals and humans. Who can hear who? This is something I like to refer to as the “Stewie syndrome”, where it is obvious certain individuals can hear, but not everyone, much in the way the family on Family Guy eiter can’t hear or ignore Stewie (excpt for Chris, occasionally). Is this a bad thing? No, but it is something that was a bit unsettling for me, personally, as I would have liked for everyone or no one to hear the animals.

In the end, The Nut Job is a decent enough family flick. As far as I could tell, there is nothing offensive, demeaning, or, unfortunately, funny. I don’t really have much to say about this flick. For the most part, it is just an average family flick that can be popped in just as often as an episode of Sesame Street, SpongeBob Squarepants, or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. So, do I recommend this? Yeah, sure, why not? I just can’t give anyone an enthusiastic recommendation about mediocrity such as this.

3 out of 5 stars

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