Director: Peter Lepeniotis
Starring: Will Arnett (v), Brendan Fraser (v), Katherine Heigl (v), Liam Neeson (v)
Release Date (US): 17th January, 2014
Company: Open Road Films
“Buddy, we found it. The lost city of Nutlantis!” – Surly
The Nut Job is an animated animal adventure, starring the vocal talents of Will Arnett (Arrested Development) in the lead of role of Surly. The movie focuses on a group of animals living in a local park struggling together to gather enough food for winter. That is, everyone except Surly, who’s ‘lone wolf’ approach to gathering food ends up compromising everyone’s food supply. Upon finding a nut store however, he assembles a crack team to break in, and set himself up with enough food to sustain him for good.
Every year, amongst the constantly improving selection of animated movies being made, there always seems to be that one creative team that decides to buck the trend. This year, that dubious honour goes to the creators of the The Nut Job. Featuring an underwhelming blend of mediocre animation and sigh-a-minute gags, this is the kind of movie that’s likely to get more snores than laughs in cinemas full of bored kids and frustrated parents.
Director Peter Lepeniotis expands on his 2005 short Surly Squirrel, also handling writing duties with Lorne Cameron (Over The Hedge). The heist premise is simple enough, but the writers manage to overcomplicate matters through various unnecessary side-plots, which detracts from the main story. Poor development makes for sketchy characterisation, while the movie itself seems to be confused by its own setting – jumping erratically between 50’s and present day lingo – all of which leads to a jumbled mess of a plot.
“Can I join your team? I can play dead. Look! [Shake’s tail] “Look at this thing. This is crazy. It has a mind of its own!” – Precious
The voice work is nothing more than okay, despite a talented cast of individuals who must have been blackmailed into participating in this film. Will Arnett fits the mould as the exiled loner Surly, but his character’s personality is a little hard to like. While Stephen Lang (Avatar) and Katherine Heigl (27 Dresses) are forgettable in their roles as clichéd mob boss and clichéd love interest, Liam Neeson’s (Taken) involvement at least makes you wish you were watching the (far superior) The Lego Movie.
Arguably the strongest character comes in the form of Surly’s sidekick, Buddy – who had the notable advantage of being mute, and thus not responsible for speaking any of the script’s terrible dialogue. Elsewhere, Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids) is entertaining enough as the face-licking dog Precious. Brendan Fraser (The Mummy) is just annoying. The rest of the cast is rounded out by forgettable animal characters who only contribute to the story through the power of slapstick and fart jokes.
Direction & Tone
What is most irritating about this film is the laziness involved in the creative process. The jokes are half-assed, the heart non-existent, and the story appears to have been jotted down within five minutes. Everything about this movie screams “money-making scam”, designed to get kids bums on seats with the help of a few cute animals and a incredibly grating ‘Gangnam Style’ reference. The movie seems even more frustrating when compared with the recent animated triumphs of Frozen and The Lego Movie.
- I miss the days when Brendan Fraser was making me cry on Scrubs. Now he’s just making me cry with frustration
- Someone should let the creative powers behind this movie that internet fads die, and Gangnam Style is getting a little old…
- The fact that over $40m was spent on this movie raises several alarm bells about the collective wisdom of the studio heads that gave this the green light
- You have to question the collective minds who thought ‘The Nut Job’ is a fitting name for a kids movie
Overall, The Nut Job feels like a straight-to-DVD production that accidentally found its way to cinemas. Brimming with cheap gags and dumb slapstick, this flat, uninspired attempt at animated fun feels like a waste of time for everybody involved.