'The Nut Job' Falls Far From the Tree
Published: Friday, January 17, 2014
Updated: Friday, January 17, 2014 00:01
The Nut Job, an animated 3D animal action movie, elicits the occasional laugh but falls far short of the bar set by comparable movies. More over-the-top than Finding Nemo and less entertaining than Ratatouille, the film relies on its star-studded voice cast to save it from being a complete waste.
Will Arnett does not disappoint as the lead squirrel in this movie, whose plot mirrors closely that of Over the Hedge. Longtime Arnett fans will note the similarity between his character in The Nut Job and the role he plays as Gob Bluth in “Arrested Development.” Both are larger-than-life characters who are always coming up with outlandish ideas that only sometimes work.
Finding himself banished from the park and the community of animals that he calls home, Arnett’s character, Surly, must find a way to survive alone in the city and regain the trust of his former friends. To do this, he enlists the help of another squirrel named Andie (voiced by Katherine Heigl.) At first flummoxed by the obstacles facing them, the two eventually develop a plan to bamboozle their human foes. However, this idea alone is not enough, as they still must defeat the self-appointed despotic ruler of the park, a surly raccoon voiced by Liam Neeson. Their interactions with this tyrant provide some of the most entertaining moments of the otherwise lackluster movie. More screen time for Neeson's character would have made the film significantly better.
On the plus side, the graphics were excellent and the 3D aspect was a major attraction. The animation was well done and in this way, certainly a major step up from previous 21st century animated films such as The Incredibles or Finding Nemo.
Short and to the point, the movie moves quickly from plot point to plot point with little delay, as one would expect in a typical children’s film, and the surplus of action makes for plenty of exciting moments. Though this fast pace may hold the attention of the average four year-old, it does not redeem the film for any older siblings or parents accompanying them.
In this strain, the movie definitely relies on fairly childish humor, leading to cheap laughs and low-quality jokes. This, in addition to the low amount of character development throughout the movie, makes it far less enjoyable than it could be. Unlike movies like The Lion King, which have attracted a long-lasting and dedicated following, this movie is unlikely to attract a large or loyal fan base.
One of the more compelling character relationships is the one between Arnett’s character and his mute squirrel companion, Buddy. Buddy is the one character who is finally able to reveal Arnett’s compassionate side, and that is when the story changes from Arnett working on his own to being a team player who wants to help all of the animals.
On the whole, the movie is watchable, but clearly meant for a much younger audience than the animated movies mentioned above. It certainly won’t become a beloved, re-watched classic.