The Nut Job is the first animated film released in 2014 and boy does it set the bar low. The problem with The Nut Job is that, like the squirrels’ tails, is that it’s a bit too fluffy and not substantial.
The Nut Job is about a purple squirrel named Surly (Will Arnett), who is an outcast from the pack of critters that lives in the city park. When Surly and his mute rat friend, Buddy, discover that a nut shop is opening up, they come up with a plan to steal the nuts in what will be the biggest nut heist in history. However, things don’t go as plan because Andie (Katherine Hiegl), one of the park squirrels, and a few other of the park animals find out, forcing Surly to work with them to get the nuts.
Yep, The Nut Job is a story about squirrels stealing nuts. The film is based on a 2005 short called “Surly Squirrel”, which was directed by the same director Peter Lepeniotis. The original short is actually pretty clever and fun, but that’s because it’s a short. The Nut Job, on the other hand, tried to stretch out the tired plot into a feature film and the audience can fill it.
Much like in “Surly Squirrel”, there is a simultaneous story of humans trying to rob a bank. In The Nut Job, we learn more about these human characters and their motives, but really, they are just fluff and filler that takes away from Surley’s story. The film is also ambiguously set in the 1950s, which was nice to see a different era; however, the animal characters all take and use phrases straight out of the 21st century while the human characters have stereotypical New York 1950s accents.
I enjoyed Will Arnett as the appropriately named Surly. His gruff voice and performance made the movie fun. Who knew that such an ill-tempered main character would be so likable? Katherine Hiegl’s performance, however, was horrible. I don’t know if it was the script or just her delivery, but Andie was always very flat and uninteresting. She was supposed to be sort of an unbiased mediator between the park ruler Raccoon (Liam Neeson) and Surly, but that trait made her annoying and unlikable. Brendan Fraser voices a manly, swoon-worthy squirrel named Grayson, but I really didn’t notice that character much because he’s in and out of the action. Also, Maya Rudolph voices a pug named Precious, who is one of the bank robber’s pets. Precious is completely endearing and yet another great addition to pugs in animation.
From the trailer, the animation looks horrible. But upon watching, the animation was actually quite pleasant and pretty. Now, it’s definitely not Disney or Pixar quality, but it’s good enough that it doesn’t distract throughout the movie. Actually, the textures of the animal’s fur were really impressive and, at times, I wanted to reach out and touch Surly’s tail. It’s so fluffy!
Speaking of misleading trailer. The trailer for The Nut Job is filled with fart jokes and cameos of Psy from “Gangnam Style” fame. And yes, while there are unfortunate flatulence jokes in the film, there really aren’t that many. (Why am I defending this? There really isn’t any good reason to ever have fart jokes.) Also, Psy, while prominent in the trailers, isn’t a character in the actual movie, thankfully. Although, this might confuse audiences when he randomly appears in the ending credits bouncing and prancing around to “Gangnam Style” with the other film’s actual cast of human and furry critters.
I didn’t hate The Nut Job. I found myself engaged in the plot, but at the same time not caring about certain characters like Andie and Grayson. I went in with low expectations, expecting the worse, and was actually surprised that it wasn’t that bad. In the end, it was OK-ish. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it. I was just pretty neutral. Now, would I recommend it to friends? Probably not unless they had kids and were desperate to take them to something new. But if it’s your goal to see every animated film of 2014, then bite the bullet and go see The Nut Job. You just might be surprised to see that it’s different than the trailers make it out to be.