The Nut Job knows its audience. It is the animated film that is not trying to get huge swaths of people to the theater, like the recent Oscar-nominated Frozen. This film about a group of squirrels and park animals, who are just trying to get a nut before winter sets in, is aimed squarely at the youngest moviegoers out there.
Will Arnett voices Surly, who we learn pretty early on -- and featured prominently in The Nut Job trailer -- is kind of an outcast who is fine patrolling the world searching for food with nothing but his MacGyver-like ingenuity and his never-speaks BFF city rat. Meanwhile, Katherine Heigl voices Andie and she has been put in charge by Raccoon (Liam Neeson) of co-leading a mission (with the park’s hero Grayson -- voiced by Brendan Fraser) to secure enough food because at current levels, they will not survive the colder months.
Whether they like it or not, and they don’t, Surly and Andie find that they have to work together when they stumble on a nut shop on the outskirts of the park. Simultaneously, a (human) crime ring is using the shop as a front to rob the bank across the street. The two mirroring stories play like a heist film squared with squirrels and park animals trying to steal the unused nuts from the shop and the gang plotting to hit the bank.
Perhaps the crime ring element was meant to draw in the adults, but it doesn’t quite work. We get where writers Lorne Cameron and Peter Lepeniotis (who also directs) were going with this, Movie Fanatic just found it a distraction. But the animals planning a heist part was pretty entertaining and as we said… children will love it.
The various characters feel a bit taken out of stereotypes spun from decades of other animated motion pictures. And even though the youngest audience members out there have seen these hundreds of times, it will still work for them. There are action sequences that are not too scary for the youngest viewers out there, and even the older kids will find some thrills.
Heigl is decent as the do-gooder who will do what it takes (within the rules) to get the job done. But, our The Nut Job review finds that this is Arnett’s film. He possesses the charm to grab adults’ collective attention while still entertaining children thoroughly. Arnett is the most unique of talents that even in a voice over role like this one, he knows exactly what his character’s strength and weaknesses are, and matches them with his performance that is a little slice of heaven.
We will say this: We cannot wait to see Arnett as Batman in the upcoming animated The LEGO Movie. He will hit it out of the park.