Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Nut Job (2014) Film Review
The Nut Job
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
Surly - who began his life in director Peter Lepeniotis's entertaining, if decidedly more adult, short (watch that below) - is spikier than a hedgehog. Self-centred and self-sufficient, he doesn't have time for the other animals in the park, with the exception of his rat chum Buddy - who like so many silent sidekicks before him gets some of the film's best moments.
Surly is a stealer of nuts and it is his light-pawed activities that provide the film's conceit - the idea of a heist within a heist. When a raid on a nut cart goes bad, it not only sees Surly banished from the park into the wilderness of the city but also leads to his path crossing that of a human set of robbers, a disparate group of thugs drawn in the best Fifities noir - and Looney Tunes - traditions. The crooks are planning their vault raid from a nut shop - which also holds the promise of a year's worth of food and a return to the park for Surly.
Surly, to his annoyance, soon finds himself part of a crew, featuring one of the most interesting female animated characters for ages. Andie (one wonders if they had to give her a 'male' name to sneak it past the funders) is a nice mix of capable action squirrel and a mother figure and has plenty of fun with the self-proclaimed hero of the park Grayson, who is 90 per cent chicken beneath his squirrel coat.
The cast of distinctive characters goes on, also featuring a lick-addicted pug named Precious, who turns out to be more of a friend than an enemy, and the dubious park leader Raccoon, whose motivations are soon called into question.
The animation is colourful without being overly busy and the humour and set pieces feel driven by the story, unlike the episodic Ice Age movies. Like the best of the Pixar and Looney Tunes output, Lepeniotis doesn't dwell on his visual gags waiting for each one to get a laugh, instead frequently throwing them out one after the other to good culmulative effect, as in an early slapstick sequence when Surly first tries to enter the nut shop.
The voice cast are also terrific. Brendan Fraser sends himself up remorselessly as the big-headed and amorous but essentially useless Grayson, while Maya Rudolph brings comic charm to Precious and Liam Neeson gets to practice his mafia stylings as the conniving Raccoon. Taking centre stage is Will Arnett - memorable for his Batman turn in the Lego Movie - who givese Surly the right amount of grouchiness while, as is the way of children's films, leaving room for learning there's more to life than himself.
Packed in among the action are the usual messages about greed and sharing along with some slightly less well-trodden lessons about loyalty and keeping your word. The Gagnam Style end credits sequence - complete with an animated Psy - reveals both the film's Korean co-production roots and dates it slightly, although children may well consider being familiar with the tune and the dance a plus rather than a negative. Stick around for the mid-credit and post-credit stings.Reviewed on: 04 Jul 2014