The Nut Job
2014, PG, 86 min. Directed by Peter Lepeniotis. Voices by Will Arnett, Katherine Heigl, Liam Neeson, Brendan Fraser, Stephen Lang, Maya Rudolph, Jeff Dunham, Gabriel Iglesias, Sarah Gadon.
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Jan. 17, 2014
The Nut Job is a head-scratcher. Kudos, I guess, go to the writers (Lorne Cameron and Peter Lepeniotis, who also directs) for curveballing your basic talking-animal cartoon with a parallel plot about Fifties gangsters, but their goon patois makes little sense when set next to the more-or-less modern argot of the small rodents that top-bill this Canadian/South Korean co-production. How “Gangnam Style” fits into all of this is a mystery, but that doesn’t stop the filmmakers from trotting out that stale K-pop ear-bleeder twice in a move as pandering as the film’s multiple fart gags.
Will Arnett voices Surly Squirrel, a loner and iconoclast disinclined to join the collectivist community of squirrels, rats, moles, and other furred foragers that share the same park. But when the food supply runs low, he agrees to lead a heist on a nearby nut shop, which itself is the front for some hooligans planning a bank job of their own. There’s no shortage of bad guys here – everybody’s a rat, so to speak, from the human heavies and Neeson’s raccoon demagogue on down to a menacing gang of actual rats – and none of the good guys are all that interesting, either in concept or execution (the voicework is mostly shrugging and – in the case of Arnett – aggressively uningratiating). But the richly hued CG animation is quite nice – a mix of hyperdetailed character work and painterly cityscapes and pastorals – and the script putters along with small but regular amusements.