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Nut Job, The
The Nut Job is an animated family film. It has a lot of star power behind it's animated characters with Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Gabriel Iglesias, Jeff Dunham, Liam Neeson, and Katherine Heigl offering their voices to the film. It has been released by Universal and is a decently fun family outing that will particularly please younger children in the audience and offer up mild entertainment to anyone who is a little bit older. Parents may only want to watch The Nut Job once but their children might actually want to see this one again and again because of it's nice characters, silly story, and decent humor (which will especially appeal to kids).
The story primarily revolves around Surly (Will Arnett), who is a bit of a mischievous squirrel. Unlike the rest of the squirrels living in the park, he's gained a reputation for taking nuts solely for himself. He doesn't play that well with others and his sole friend is a rat who doesn't speak but is always by his side. Early in the film, he is confronted by Andie (Katherine Heigl), who attempts to inspire in him a need to help the community of the park and to share his nuts with other animals in need of food. Surly doesn't react to this with much thought and is keen only on keeping the nuts for himself.
After a long(ish) action sequence, it isn't long before a fire accident destroys the food that the park had saved and managed to have for the upcoming season. The finger is pointed towards Surly and the manager of the park, the formidable Raccoon (Liam Neeson) suggests that the community banish Surly from living with them.
Surly leaves the park community behind disheartened and downtrodden. He enters the big city alone (but is soon accompanied by his friend even though he tried to tell him to not leave the community just to be with him). He soon discovers a shop advertised as a coming soon Nuts shop, where all kinds of varieties of nuts should be held for sale. Surly gets the idea that he's going to break into the store and get a ton of nuts for himself.
Meanwhile, a meeting is held at the park. It is decided that someone needs to go out and look for food for the other animals because of their lack of available options following the loss of their stock. Andie leads the team along with Grayson (Brendan Fraser), who is at first a wannabe heroic leader before actually becoming one before the movie's end. The pair set out to find possible food options and they soon come to the same nut shop.
Over the course of the film, Surly begins to work with Andie and Grayson to get nuts from the store for himself AND for the other animals to have food. As the story unfolds there is also an element to the park leader Raccoon that is unexpected. Will the squirrels be able to find some way of delivering enough food for the entire community? Will Surly be accepted back by the other animals after helping them? These are questions the movie poses through its storyline.
Underneath the main plot-line, there is also a somewhat generic and boring sub-plot involving gangsters attempting to rob a bank who are using the nut shop as their 'front' to robbing. This storyline is far less interesting than the main one involving the squirrels, but the storyline is something that gives attention to both plots as an element of the movie (but with much less screen time devoted to the gangsters).
The animation in the movie is something that one would expect to be one of the high points considering the 40 million production budget. The Nut Job is something one would want to deliver as good of an animated presentation as possible within that kind of framework. Yet it doesn't manage to be the best thing about the movie as it's actually rather disappointing work.
It's disappointing that while the whole film has a clean and vibrant color palette the artistry is less detailed and more generic feeling. There are some nice elements to the artwork. However, nothing in the production design comes close to the work done by major animation studios like Pixar (the best of the best), Sony Pictures Animation, or Dreamworks Animation. Everything is too cold and mechanical by comparison.
There also seems to be something a bit off in regards to the movement of the characters and the details. The animation is just a bit less fluid and effective in some sequences. While sometimes impressive (such as the hair on these squirrels -- where you can see many lines of their fur) it is also less notable art when it came to character designs and those details. Background details are especially close to being almost nonexistent (these are generally not very impressive and feel so much more like mere afterthoughts in this film's design).
The humor isn't that bad in the sense that it's family friendly with only a few jokes that might be considered as "crude" but the film isn't really all that funny on the whole. The Nut Job manages to convey a nice approach to the humor though that makes it work as a cute and charming slice of family fun. For the most part, I think that the jokes will be appealing to young kids, who are the primary audience that this movie wants to entertain. The director Peter Lepeniotis is trying hard to make this movie as much fun for children as possible and that's not such a bad thing.
The voice-work from everyone involved is really quite sensational. I enjoyed hearing the voices as performed by such an interesting cast of actors. It was great hearing Brendan Fraser doing a solid job here, especially as he is an actor that I usually like and have been disappointed to see his career activity dropping off over the years. Heigl offers the most warmth to her part out of everyone else in the cast. Arnett is slyly humorous simply from his inflections and tone as the most comedic actor out of the bunch.
My favorite thing about the film is actually one of the least developed areas of the movie. The film has a message within it about the need of sharing food within a community and the way caring for others and working together can lead to positive outcomes for everyone. I like the inclusion of such messages, but I feel they are not as well conveyed as possible for younger viewers. With a good conversation with a parent about these underlying ideas, I think this is something that could make a viewing of The Nut Job become much more meaningful than it would be solely from a surface viewing that doesn't explore these issues that are connected to this storyline. There are some good messages that could be learned from the film with a good discussion following the film.
Overall, I thought this film was a solid distraction; a decently done film that is charming, sweet, and good-natured but not the best made animated effort out there. The plot-line almost feels like a throwback to cartoons of the 70's or 80's (which is sort of nice) but the writing and delivery is less effectively done this time around. The movie offers few genuine surprises with it's mostly by-the-books storytelling.
I wish The Nut Job had been more polished before release as there's a part of me that feels like this could have been a significantly better animated effort with a bit more time invested into it. The actual film is just mildly entertaining but it's still a decent effort that is worthy of at least renting. The themes of the film that are underlining it are the film's greatest strength but the filmmaking needed to explore these themes to a greater extent to have a larger impact. I'd heartily recommend to parents a post-viewing discussion with their kids.
The Nut Job is presented on Blu-ray with an impressive 1080p High Definition transfer which retains the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen. The animation looks as stunning as it ever will with a good clean presentation that provides the artwork with all the detail and clarity one expects from a solid digital animation transfer.
The film is presented with a lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation which is something that preserves the dynamics of the audio with its music and sound effects laden production in a high quality that is notable for OK bass, effective vocal clarity, and strong surround usage.
Optional subtitles are provided in Spanish, French, and English SDH (for the deaf and hard of hearing).
This is a Blu-ray Combo pack release with an additional DVD copy of the film and a digital copy (which works with iTunes). The packaging includes an o-card slipcover.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 5 min.) presents a few select moments that were left on the cutting room floor.
Storyboards (HD, 3 min.) presents a few short select moments from the film as they were as storyboarded before the sequence was produced.
The Great Nut Heist (HD, 2 min.) is a standard promotional behind-the-scenes piece with interviews and clips from the film.
Dance-Off End Credits (HD) is nothing more than the end credits sequence presented as something selectable as a standalone presentation. Keep in mind this still has the credits.The biggest inclusion is two animated shorts, one with a low-resolution presentation while the other is in sparkling HD. These shorts were clearly produced as precursors to the bigger production of The Nut Job and seem to be early test films of some sort. (15 min.)
The Nut Job is a decent family film that will entertain kids and keep adults at least mildly amused throughout the runtime. It's a cute movie that doesn't entirely work, but there are qualities to it that are nice (the stylistic throwback to 70's cartoons, nice voice work, and underlining messages that are quite positive and worthy of discussion with kids).
Most viewers will consider this film one where a single viewing is enough. I would think that the replay value wouldn't be too high. However, parents might want to add a couple of stars to the replay value rating as young children might want to revisit this one many times over. If this is something you think your kids might enjoy, it's worth purchasing. For everyone else a rental should likely suffice.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.