By Will Ashton | firstname.lastname@example.org| @thewillofash
The Nut Job | Directed by Peter Lepeniotis | Rated PG
Despite being quite a few years removed from the appropriate age to enjoy them, I have found that I continue my tradition of seeing PIXAR movies on the big screen and making sure to check out all the films nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars each year.
Plus, some of the best animated films I have ever seen have been strictly for adults. If you don’t believe me, check out Mary and Max or Waltz with Bashir.
That said, even I am well aware of the shameless nature that is found within second-rate animation studios. Namely, their below-average efforts of dumping half-assed animated films into theaters to get a quick-and-easy buck from kids forcing their parents to take them to the multiplex to see these films. No, I am not talking about the straight-to-DVD knockoffs of Puss in Boots or Ratatouille that are found in the dollar bin of Wal-Mart to confuse grandmas trying to buy a movie on their list for their grandchildren. I’m talking about the generic, run-of-the-mill animated films that second rate movie studios push out into theaters in-between the rush of better animated movies in order to gather what ever sweet change they can.
This, ultimately, defines The Nut Job. Dumped in the wasteland of cinematic mediocrity known as January, Open Road and some 20 other unknown animation studios have released this feature in between the rush of Frozen and The Lego Movie hoping audience members would have seen the former enough that they would check out their film before it comes time to see the later. As a result, The Nut Job is everything you should come to expect from these type of efforts: a lazy, ineffective family film that steals from better family films before it to unimaginatively tell a story we all have seen so many times before.
This time, it’s the story of Surly the squirrel (voiced by Will Arnett), a loner who attempts to steal his fair-share of nuts before the rest of the forest takes the stash. After screwing up one too many times, Surly gets banished from his local forest and is forced to live in the cold, alienating city. But Surly’s despair is not found for long, as he discovers a local nut store that may be able to fend his needs.
The Nut Job isn’t so much terrible as it is painfully generic. There is literally nothing here that hasn’t been done better before, and it seems to wear its mediocrity on its sleeve. Not only does the film seem contend with doing nothing special, it seems proud of itself for just being made at all. Despite its solid voice cast, which includes Arnett, Gabriel Iglesias, Maya Rudolph and Liam Neeson, among others, it rarely gives any of them anything interesting or amusing to do. They are forced to read half-heartedly written jokes that fail to even earn a smile a majority of the time, and as a result, produce a rather dull and tedious family feature.
They even end the film with the animated characters we were supposed to have grown to love participating in a dated dance number of “Gangum Style.” It’s bad enough that you have to take this tired trope out of retirement, but do you have to force me to have that song stuck in my head again for the next week too?
Even the animation isn’t all that good. Is it terrible? No, I have certainly seen worse. But the character designs are unimaginative, the sets don’t really stand out and the color scheme is limited to a five-color palette, it often seems.
So what keeps me from outright hating this movie? I really don’t know. For the most part, it’s relatively inoffensive, I suppose. Save for some truly obvious slapstick jokes and bathroom humor, none of the jokes are cringe worthy as much as they are meanderingly unfunny and uninspired. And the movie, for the most part, does seem to know when to get in and get out with a mere 86 minutes running time.
That said, that is certainly not an endorsement for this movie, and it continues to make me question how many more of these uninspired animated movies I can tolerate with my little sisters before I completely give up my love of these type of films, much like everything else in life, I suppose. I guess I just have to wait until The Lego Movie to see an inspired and imaginative animated movie in theaters (hopefully). For now, though, it appears that families are forced to watch The Nut Job. Or, just see Frozen again. Try that first and see if it works.