The Nut Job (2014)

The Nut Job (2014) movie poster

director Peter Lepeniotis
viewed: 02/01/2014 at AMC Metreon 16, SF, CA

Took the kids to see this one.  I thought it looked pretty weak in the trailers and probably wouldn’t have if anything else was playing out there.  Clara was vaguely interested.  Felix was nonplussed.  

With such lowered expectations, I suppose that it wasn’t hard for the film to be better than I was anticipating.  While the animation design is sort of derivative (haven’t we seen characters that look like these — all of these — somewhere else) and not up to Pixar/Disney qualities, it’s still quite lush in its way.  Digital animation has set a reasonably high bar for itself, so while it doesn’t wow, it’s also no polished turd.

The thing that fails most egregiously is most of the humor and a moderate amount of the character development.  The character development sort of seems partially intentional.

The main character is Surly Squirrel (voiced by Will Arnett), an intentionally misanthropic character who isn’t entirely likable.  He’s Surly, you see.  And the story sort of follows an arc of his character learning to care for others, but anyways.  It’s also a heist film, a double heist film, in which the critters from a park want to knock over a Nut Store that is the front for a gang of bank robbers.  That’s a reasonable enough conceit.  And it kind of works.

But the film’s humor is oddly dead.  Characters hit their marks but the jokes, whether stale or lame or even half-decent, seem to fall flat.  I couldn’t really put my finger on it whether it was a lack of originality, lack of verve, or timing or whatever, but I don’t really know.  Other films that can be even more annoying seem to hit their gag marks more successfully.

But you know, it was okay.  I’m not recommending it.  But it’s not something that you have to run screaming not to see.  Not much of an endorsement, but there you go.

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