THE NUT JOB
*** (out of 5)
January 17, 2014
Will Arnett as SURLY
Brendan Fraser as GRAYSON
Liam Neeson as RACCOON
Katherine Heigl as ANDIE
Stephen Lang as KING
Maya Rudolph as PRECIOUS
Studio: Open Road
Directed by: Peter Lepeniotis
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Anyone who knows me knows that animation is one of my favorite genres. And no, it’s not just the Pixar and DreamWorks stuff. I like all types of animation. In fact, several years ago, I found multiple animated films topping my best-of-the-year list, including some brilliant examples of stop-motion filmmaking.
Still, I thought the trailers for “The Nut Job” looked dreadful. I was getting flashbacks to this past November with the film “Free Birds,” which I respected for thinking out of the box but ending up not liking because it just wasn’t terribly well made.
However, when I finally dragged my sorry butt out of bed on a Saturday morning to attend the press screening, I found myself pleasantly surprised.
“The Nut Job” tells a pretty simple story about a group of woodland animals in Central Park who are trying to beef up their food storage for the winter. After a mishap loses their entire stash, they set their sites on a nut shop in Manhattan, which has enough food to last ten winters. However, the nut shop is also a hideout for several gangsters who are planning to rob the bank next door.
Sure, this film has some not-very-subtle elements borrowed from other animated films. The plot seems oddly similar to the quite brilliant DreamWorks film “Over the Hedge” from several years ago, and Brad Bird himself took to Twitter to note the similarity between a rat in the gang and his character Remy from “Ratatouille.” (Personally, I like to think they are the same character, and the rat in this film plays out like a warning ad about not doing meth.)
However, there’s a lot of charm to be found in the movie. Let’s forget about Katherine Heigl doing a voice for the moment. After all, she’s just a minor character in the film, and her voice isn’t nearly as irritating as her general premise in the movie. Will Arnett delivers a pretty solid and funny character in the lead squirrel Surly. He’s a bit cheeky, but not too edgy for a kids’ film.
The rest of the voice cast is pretty good, particularly the gangsters. You also have Liam Neeson playing the manipulative Raccoon who is trying to keep the power over the winter food store for himself.
The plot to the film is pretty standard and paints by the numbers, but not in a irritating way. Some elements seem forced, but it’s nothing worse than you’ll see on a direct-to-DVD Disney sequel. Not every animated film has to be a Pixar or DreamWorks spectacle of perfection. Plus, with a name like “The Nut Job,” there’s plenty of opportunity for unintentionally funny lines of dialogue that only me and a ten-year-old boy would find hilarious.
In the end, “The Nut Job” made me chuckle a few times. It’s short, breezy running time doesn’t overstay its welcome. The animation is somewhat rudimentary, but that’s to be expected for a non-tentpole release in January.
If you’ve already seen “Frozen” with the kids (and lets face it, who hasn’t?), “The Nut Job” gives you a good excuse to take the kids to the theater again.