Reviews - Major Releases


Film Review: The Nut Job

A whimsical period setting helps this 3D animated caper escape some overly familiar trappings.

Jan 16, 2014

-By Michael Rechtshaffen


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1392648-Nut_Job_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

It may not be the freshest acorn in the tree—as evidenced by an end-credits "Gangnam Style" sequence complete with an animated Psy—but The Nut Job still proves to be a more pleasant diversion than those noisy TV spots would indicate.

Benefiting from an inspired period setting that informs both its look and characterizations, the heist film wears its vintage Looney Tunes influence prominently in its depiction of a mid-20th-century metropolis overrun with Runyonesque types of both the animal and human variety.

As voiced by a group of performers including Will Arnett, Liam Neeson and Katherine Heigl, those divergent tones never quite feel like they're on the same page (let alone in the same room), but the ensuing antics are sufficiently nutty to engage family audiences.

A feature-length take on his 2005 animated short, Surly Squirrel, director Peter Lepeniotis' 3D caper is set in fictional Oakton City, circa 1959, where a serious late-fall nut shortage is threatening the lives of the foraging inhabitants of Liberty Park. But surviving the winter could be a breeze if the rogue, gravelly voiced Surly (Arnett) manages to pull off a heist of epic proportions involving knocking over a nut shop.

Banished by the arrogant Raccoon (Neeson), the self-proclaimed leader of the park's denizens, Surly initially goes it alone before begrudgingly being joined in his nutty quest by fellow squirrels, the compassionate Andie (Heigl) and the narcissistic Grayson (Brendan Fraser), among other rodents.

Turns out they're not the only ones eyeing the nut shop—so are a bunch of gangsters, led by the imposing King (Stephen Lang), intent on tunneling their way into the bank vault just across the street.

Despite the pervasive air of familiarity that also extends to the likes of Scrat from the Ice Age films, a sidekick rat resembling Ratatouille's Remy and aspects of 2006's Over the Hedge, co-written by Nut Job scripter Lorne Cameron, the production squeaks by on the visual charm of art director Ian Hastings' period touches and warm autumnal hues.

The voice talent is a decidedly mixed bag. While Arnett's gruff tones would seem to be well-suited for the surly protagonist, the delivery lacks an undercurrent of empathy that would have made for a more likeable character. Elsewhere, the portrayals tend to come across as either too frantic or too understated to jibe agreeably, with the notable exception of Maya Rudolph, who practically steals the show as Precious, an eager-to-please, bug-eyed pug.

The Hollywood Reporter


Film Review: The Nut Job

A whimsical period setting helps this 3D animated caper escape some overly familiar trappings.

Jan 16, 2014

-By Michael Rechtshaffen


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1392648-Nut_Job_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

It may not be the freshest acorn in the tree—as evidenced by an end-credits "Gangnam Style" sequence complete with an animated Psy—but The Nut Job still proves to be a more pleasant diversion than those noisy TV spots would indicate.

Benefiting from an inspired period setting that informs both its look and characterizations, the heist film wears its vintage Looney Tunes influence prominently in its depiction of a mid-20th-century metropolis overrun with Runyonesque types of both the animal and human variety.

As voiced by a group of performers including Will Arnett, Liam Neeson and Katherine Heigl, those divergent tones never quite feel like they're on the same page (let alone in the same room), but the ensuing antics are sufficiently nutty to engage family audiences.

A feature-length take on his 2005 animated short, Surly Squirrel, director Peter Lepeniotis' 3D caper is set in fictional Oakton City, circa 1959, where a serious late-fall nut shortage is threatening the lives of the foraging inhabitants of Liberty Park. But surviving the winter could be a breeze if the rogue, gravelly voiced Surly (Arnett) manages to pull off a heist of epic proportions involving knocking over a nut shop.

Banished by the arrogant Raccoon (Neeson), the self-proclaimed leader of the park's denizens, Surly initially goes it alone before begrudgingly being joined in his nutty quest by fellow squirrels, the compassionate Andie (Heigl) and the narcissistic Grayson (Brendan Fraser), among other rodents.

Turns out they're not the only ones eyeing the nut shop—so are a bunch of gangsters, led by the imposing King (Stephen Lang), intent on tunneling their way into the bank vault just across the street.

Despite the pervasive air of familiarity that also extends to the likes of Scrat from the Ice Age films, a sidekick rat resembling Ratatouille's Remy and aspects of 2006's Over the Hedge, co-written by Nut Job scripter Lorne Cameron, the production squeaks by on the visual charm of art director Ian Hastings' period touches and warm autumnal hues.

The voice talent is a decidedly mixed bag. While Arnett's gruff tones would seem to be well-suited for the surly protagonist, the delivery lacks an undercurrent of empathy that would have made for a more likeable character. Elsewhere, the portrayals tend to come across as either too frantic or too understated to jibe agreeably, with the notable exception of Maya Rudolph, who practically steals the show as Precious, an eager-to-please, bug-eyed pug.

The Hollywood Reporter
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Major Releases

Into the Woods
Film Review: Into the Woods

Over-scaled, too dark and only intermittently charming Sondheim musical adaptation does a disservice to a great cast and is often so noisy you can't even appreciate the music. More »

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Film Review: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Latest rollicking entry in the sturdy series (installments one and two together hit a billion dollars in grosses) again has natural and historic wonders come alive at night to wreak havoc. But it’s largely kids’ stuff. More »

The Interview
Film Review: The Interview

If you’re curious, the movie that has North Korea so upset is genuinely amusing, if flawed in the length department. More »

Annie review
Film Review: Annie

Here’s an updated Annie for today’s entitled, tech-savvy and racially diverse generation of tweens who can easily relate to the new Annie’s love of luxurious toys. Their parents and other adults may miss the sweet innocence of the original, but they won’t be entirely bored by this frenetic new version of her classic story. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Into the Woods
Film Review: Into the Woods

Over-scaled, too dark and only intermittently charming Sondheim musical adaptation does a disservice to a great cast and is often so noisy you can't even appreciate the music. More »

The H obbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Film Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

After rewriting the rules for modern fantasy cinema, for the better and worse, Peter Jackson’s six-film Tolkien saga slams, bangs and shudders to a long-overdue conclusion. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here