The things we endure for our children. It was certainly never my intention to make “The Nut Job” my first official review of a 2014 release, but that’s the way it’s worked out. You see, earlier this past week, my oldest boy celebrated his 9th birthday. Among the many fun things he got to enjoy over the weekend, in the name of celebration, was choosing a movie to go see. Being the discerning, film savvy Dad that I am, I used all of my powers of persuasion to steer him towards the critical and box office smash, “The Lego Movie”. And he did get to attend that. But it was two days before his big day—and without me(his best friend’s mother escorted the boys on a snowy afternoon). So, 48 hours later, I got stuck going with him to “The Nut Job”. I tried to inform my youngster that the reviewers weren’t kind to it(because…this is what I do), but he just loved those television trailers. Hey, could you turn down a kid on his b-day?
I’ll give the 86-minute feature this…it opens with a pretty intense and nifty chase scene. Of course, starting on a high is not always your best bet—because it’s mostly downhill from there. There’s an occasional snappy one-liner, and the animation is strong enough. But there’s not much oomph after that first rousing setpiece. So, the kids were obviously bored before long(my wife and I ended up taking three boys with us). And whenever things start to get a little too flat, director/co-writer Peter Lepeniotis seems to have a fart joke or two on standby. Yes, my kids laugh at fart jokes all the time, but it’s a pretty desperate measure. And the main plotline, of a banished squirrel trying to redeem himself, by pulling off a huge nut heist to feed his starving city park community of furry friends—gets tired rather rapidly. Voice work by Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Katherine Heigl and Liam Neeson(among others)is adequate, but never consistently engaging. In fact, the most rousing portion of the movie arrives during the end credits, when South Korean entertainer PSY(this release is a combination South Korean, Canadian, American production)performs his international hit “Gangnam Style” in animated form. At least I was tapping my feet towards the exit door.
Much of this movie was obviously created with 3D in mind, but we decided not to view it with that option. Besides, most of the 3D screens in my area were taken up by the smash hit “The Lego Movie“(have I made clear that that was my desired selection). My son was crazy about that one, by the way, but proclaimed “The Nut Job” was simply “okay”. He’s been developing an acute sensibility towards these things—one wonders who he gets it from. But “The Nut Job” should have given itself away to any halfway astute moviegoer with its mid-January release date. That’s not when they open the good stuff, folks. Passable rainy day entertainment on cable television is most likely this cartoon’s legacy. But now I come across a story that “The Nut Job” has raked in just enough dough to have a sequel commissioned for a January 2016 release. So, what do I know? Just hoping that my son is over animated squirrels around the time of his 11th birthday, is all. But my youngest will be 8 by that time, so I just might be screwed regardless. Awww, nuts. Grade: C-
next review up: “Despicable Me 2”