The Nut Job

Directed by Peter Lepeniotis
Starring Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Katherine Heigl, Liam Neeson and Maya Rudolph
In UK Cinemas August 1st, 2014

by Amanda Farley

When you combine cute furry woodland animals, an interesting premise and a cast that includes Will Arnett, Katherine Heigl, Brendan Fraser and Liam Neeson you might be forgiven for expecting more than The Nut Job delivers.

Surely (Will Arnett) is the kind of Squirrel who is only interested in looking out for himself. Refusing to be part of the park’s strict social order he is the ultimate outsider. His only friend is a mute rat called Buddy (Rob Tinkler) and he’s quite happy with that fact. However a disastrous run in with a nut cart leads to his banishment. Forced from the safety of the park, Surely must survive the dangers of the city. It’s not long though until he finds himself inside a nut shop, the equivalent of a squirrel mecca.

Overjoyed by his good fortune, he is not happy when fellow squirrels Greyson (Brendan Fraser) and Andie (Katherine Heigl) turn up. Raccoon (Liam Neeson) has sent them to find food for winter and they want a share of the nuts. With enough food to feed everyone and no alternative, Surely is forced to make a deal, but can he really trust them and will this hardened survivor ever be able to part with his stash? Meanwhile, as the animals plan the heist of their lives; little do they know that the nut shop owners, a gang of hardened criminals, are pulling off a heist of their own.

If food is scarce in this film, then so is story. Surely while very cute doesn’t jump off the screen as a typical hero. In fact there is very little to like about him. Ever the outsider we never get a glimpse of the real squirrel behind the closed off exterior. While backstory is hinted at it is never expanded upon and because of that the plot comes across as bland and uninspiring. The other characters are equally one dimensional and the overall narrative effect is disappointing. The best thing about this film has to be Precious (Maya Rudolph) a Pug who will do anything not to be sent back to the pound. Precious is the only character with real heart and even here the thinly drawn plot fails to capitalize on the energy Maya brings to the script.

The Nut Job has a lot of promise but it never develops into anything memorable. The animation while pretty, feels outdated for 2014 and the central message rings hollow. There are a few fun lines over the 86 minutes running time but overall it’s certainly nothing to go nuts over (Sorry it had to be said).

The strangest part of all has to be the closing titles where an animated Psy, the Korean one-hit wonder, leads the characters in a Gangnam Style routine, surely a cultural phenomenon best consigned to the past.

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