2 1/2 StarsWe have reached a point in the digital age when second-tier animation looks as vibrant and polished as their big-named contemporaries. The visuals look fantastic, animal furs shimmer and cartoon humans move around with freedom and clarity, the holes show through in the second-rate stories that inevitably are forgettable, less witty variations on the common themes that show up in the genre. The prevailing message here is that sharing is better than being selfish, its stand procedure there. It’s a shame though since the movie plays best when its lead character is being incorrigible and self-serving, especially as voiced by the amusingly arrogant Will Arnett.
Surly the Squirrel (Will Arnett) is an aptly named creature, he is ill-tempered and prefers to roam solo through the cityscape looking for his food. The rest of the wild rodents reside in the park, working as a team preparing to store nuts and supplies for the winter, led by the dictator Raccoon (Liam Neeson). A mishap involving a flaming nut cart spoils the hoard and the animals are forced to banish Surly from the park.
Now, living in the treacherous streets of New York City (in the 1940s in appears) Surly stumbles upon a nut store, inside is the mother load score for this rodent and his best friend, Buddy. The pair plot a heist but the obstacles make the mission seemingly impossible. Meanwhile, the nut store is actually a front for a gang of thieves intent on robbing the bank across the street.
So, we have a fairly clever satire on the ‘heist’ movie, as two concurrent schemes are being plotted and eventually carried out simultaneously. Of course, through Squrly’s heroic actions and eventually reluctant partnership with a female squirrel (Katherine Heigel) he learns to be less selfish and more pack-minded. The bulk of the movie takes place in the shop and surrounding block, I’m sure cutting down on production costs by animation one set essentially, but the corners have not been cut anywhere else. The Nut Job isn’t the best family film of the year or any other hyperbole the ads suggest, but it’s a lot better than any second-tier copy should be.
Director: Peter Lepeniotis
Stars: Will Arnett, Katherine Heigel, Liam Neeson