As we sit here in the dead of winter, the first genuinely busy weekend of 2014 is gearing up with a plethora of new choices, along with the first animated fare of the year. "The Nut Job" is some goofy action filled fare that generates the occasional laugh from the younger crowd but is way too broad and could even be borderline offensive if looked at in the wrong light.
The Nut Job follows the travails of Surly (Will Arnett), a mischievous city park squirrel and his rat friend Buddy, who plan an outrageous nut-store heist and unwittingly get embroiled in a human bank robbery.
Ultimately, a very broad and slap stick type of affair, "The Nut Job" takes huge swipes at comedy that leans way too hard on physical comedy and goofy jokes, that even the kids in the audience got worn out by the joke. Co-writer and director Peter Lepeniotis starts off the film with a solid enough premise, but it degenerates into slapstick gags so quickly, it's hard to get invested in any kind of story as the characters are one dimensional and fairly uninteresting as the film tries to boil it all to how all dumb or how sneaky all of these characters are. With the bulk of the animation work and executive producers coming out of either Canada or South Korea, there are elements of the film that almost feel derogatory towards the audience, as it doesn't clearly take place in present day and the flat out buffoonery of everyone of the 'bad guy' characters comes off a little socialist vs. capitalist. It makes for a weird dynamic as this somewhat decent action flies across the screen. It never drags, but the random moments of 'Gangnam Style' and an unexpectedly dark ending make this a weird disjointed watch.
As Surly, Will Arnett's jokes are ultimately hit and miss as he isn't charismatic enough of a voice to carry a film as a lead. Katherine Heigl's Andie got washed into the background as she defends the antics of Surly, while Brendan Fraser's over the top Grayson as the hero of the park community was bordering on grating after the joke about him being a little delusional wore a little thin. Liam Neeson seemed out of place as the wise and sage racoon named...Racoon (sigh) and the voice cast balanced out with the barely recognizable Maya Rudolph, Jeff Dunham, Stephen Lang, Gabriel Iglesias and Sarah Gadon. Nobody was laughably bad, but the material just let them all down at pretty well every turn.
At the end of the day, "The Nut Job" does enough to generate a couple of laughs for the kids and that is what matters the most but this spastic and uneven fare will be pretty quickly forgotten after the opening weekend as I doubt this will make into any minivan DVD players to distract the kids on long car rides.
1 out of 5 stars.
"The Nut Job" is open in theatres across the country this Friday. Check with local listings for show times.