Since Arrested Development, Will Arnett has found life as a voiceover artist for animated movies and shows and his development therein has proven to be fun to experience. Whether it's been through lighter fare like The Lego Batman Movie or darker turns in Bojack Horseman, his voice remains distinctive while getting an emotional range that other live action roles may not have accomplished for him. His work as Surly in The Nut Job? Somewhere in between. The movie did okay financially but wasn't a popular hit, and he returns for a sequel.
Written by Bob Barlen and Cal Brunker (Escape From Planet Earth) with Brunker directing, Arnett's Surley is a squirrel and the most popular animal at Liberty Park, running a restaurant. The Mayor of Liberty Park (Bobby Moynihan, Inside Out) wants to convert the park into an amusement park, Surley and Andie (Katherine Heigl, Knocked Up) attempt to rally the park's other animals in an attempt to avoid the park getting shut down and making them homeless.
In having a voice like Arnett's one almost gets a sense that if the story around him gets a little too shtick-ey, then the film won't work, or at hasn't in the past. With Bojack, he's gotten the chance to make that character into his own, and a plastic Bruce Wayne has its own constraints, and this one is just one where he chews the scenery perhaps more than he should have. In the Batman lego films he's got his head down and staying with the character and story and the result winds up being fun. Surley is perhaps a character Arnett thinks that others should hear, and the result is erratic and underwhelming.
It should have been this way because there are characters here that provide some decent contributions. Maya Rudolph (Inherent Vice) is a pug, who meets a similar dog in Frankie (Bobby Cannavale, I, Tonya), who is introduced to the park family. Jackie Chan (The Lego Ninjago Movie) plays a mouse named Mr. Feng, Gabriel Iglesias (Magic Mike XXL) is a groundhog, and all do generally competent work.
However, a decent ensemble can't overcome a story that sets up its premise early and then results in exaggeration by a lead that works against himself with material he should be familiar with. The Nut Job 2 may be rehashing gags of the first which is discouraging, and it lives up to its somewhat condescending image. The movie throws a lot of flash at you to distract you from a barren story, with the result making me wonder how a second got made and hopefully will cinch the case against a third.The Blu-ray Disc:
Colors appear natural in this AVC encoded 1.85:1 widescreen that possess more image depth in things like the park sequences, with grass blades readily discernible along with animal fur and textures in metal. Haloing is a nonfactor in the feature and the disc is devoid of any sourcing issues that I saw. Universal continues an already solid line of work with this release.The Sound:
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless and it sounds pretty good as you'd expect. An early action sequence involving a runaway tractor, the park and Steppenwolf's "Born to be Wild" that contains a lot of range, channel panning and subwoofer involvement from the engine and crashes. There are other sequences but that may be the one that jumpstarts things early, chases through the street include ambient city noise that sounds clear and effective and dialogue is consistent through the film. Really good to listen to.Extras:
Brunker and Barlen team up for a commentary that goes over scene and story motivations, along with handling the changes in technology from the first movie to the second. They discuss how writing in one process while the animation can impact it, and he covers the animation passes while discussing his non-CG process. Aspects like sound design, scoring and production challenges are also touched upon. It would have been nice to get a cast member but this track is good regardless. One deleted scene (:33) has an introduction but the scene is kind of meaningless, and two animation progression reels (2:47) show things from storyboard to final product in a gradual process. A concept art reel (2:56) also shows the changes of characters in various forms.Final Thoughts:
Sometimes when a film makes a whole bunch of movie with no discernible reason as to why, the desire to grab the brass ring overshadows taking a look at things to see how they can improve on them. It would seem that Nut Job 2 just did more of the same stuff, except louder and more frenetic. It's a nice disc to look at, but in an already crowded family entertainment genre, this does little to distinguish itself.