In the new animated film The Nut Job, Surly, a squirrel (voiced by Will Arnett) finds himself banished from the park he calls home. He’s forced to survive in the big city where he inadvertently stumbles upon what he refers to as “the lost city of Nutlantis” otherwise known as Maury’s Nut Store. Surly soon discovers, however, that despite its innocent looking façade the shop is merely a front for a gang of thieves planning to rob the bank next door.
The Nut Job is based on director Peter Lepeniotis’ 2005 short entitled “Surly Squirrel”. The film features an impressive roster of voice talent including Katherine Heigl, Brendan Fraser, Liam Neeson, and SNL alumni Maya Rudolph as Precious the pug. Canadian rising star Sarah Gadon (Cosmopolis) has a small part in the film, providing the voice for the Lana, the estranged girlfriend of one of the gangsters.
The film utilizes 3D in order to bring its story to life and the effects are visually impressive. Plot wise, The Nut Job is made up of juxtaposed storylines each involving a planned robbery. The main plotline follows the struggles of Surly and a diverse group of animals all of whom must band together in order to steal Maury’s store of its supply of nuts thus procuring a sufficient food supply for the park residents to be able to survive the upcoming winter season. A parallel storyline focuses on a group of old style gangsters planning a bank heist.
One of the themes of this film is the importance of teamwork and cooperation. But if you think about the plot from a different perspective, however, it seems rather odd that the only reason the animals agree to cooperate is in order to steal something. Although you could rationalize that their theft is for a good reason, specifically that the animals need to eat, you might ask yourself if stealing is the only way out of their predicament? The phrase, “give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll never go hungry” comes to mind.
Despite its flaws (one of which being one too many fart jokes) kids should enjoy The Nut Job. The characters are whimsical and cute and the film is populated by an array of creatures such as squirrels, a couple of groundhogs, a mole, an evil raccoon and his pet cardinal sidekick, an adorable rat, and several very helpful pigeons. The film also includes some funny lines such as in the scene in which Andie, Katherine Heigel’s character, scolds a group of disorderly park critters by saying, “We have to stop behaving like a bunch of wild animals… (weighted pause) …OK so we are a bunch of wild animals.”
One thing to keep in mind if you see this film is that you should remain in your seat for the first portion of the closing credits. It features a lively sequence that not only reunites all the characters in the film but also includes an animated version of Korean pop star Psy and the strains of his hit “Gagnam Style”. Perhaps this portion of The Nut Job is the filmmakers’ way of paying homage to the Korean crew who worked on the film. And while the singer’s appearance is out of place with the rest of the film something tells me that an audience of kids won’t mind this discontinuity. Although there’s no doubt that “Gangnam Style” has been played to death in the media the song still has a beat that’s infectious (like it or not you know it’s the truth) and children are bound to find this extra material a real treat.
The Nut Job opens January 17.