The Nut Job (2014) – Film Review

Director: Peter Lepeniotis
Writers: Lorne Cameron, Peter Lepeniotis, Daniel Woo
Actors: Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Liam Neeson, Katherine Heigl, Maya Rudolph
Runtime: 85 min
Rating: G

Animated children’s movies are a genre all their own. Since young kids cannot attend films by themselves, these movies must also hold appeal for accompanying parents as well. Techniques such as employing recognizable, big-name voice actors and integrating multi-layered humour are often used in order to achieve this feat. Unfortunately, the new 3D animated feature The Nut Job lacks the heart and depth necessary to interest adults, and even children could probably do with a bit more nuance.

The Nut Job

Surly (Will Arnett) the squirrel seems to cause nothing but trouble for the fellow animals of his park with his selfish nature and outrageous schemes. When he accidentally foils an attempt to secure enough nuts to last the oncoming winter by feisty and independent she-squirrel Andie (Katherine Heigl) and bumbling hero Greyson (Brendan Fraser), Surly is banished by head animal Raccoon (Liam Neeson) and sent to live in the dangerous city. With only his loyal companion Buddy for company, Surly discovers the one thing that could help him gain re-entry into the park: a nut store housing enough food to feed the animals for many winters to come. The only thing standing in his way is his own selfishness, which he must overcome in order to learn the importance of cooperation.

The animal characters in this film are quirky and individualized, and they are effectively brought to life through bright, 3D animation. Recognizable voice acting also helps to engage an audience, and a feisty pug named Precious, voiced by Maya Rudolph, provides a few amusing moments. In addition, a lively soundtrack effectively guides emotional responses and keeps toes tapping throughout.

The Nut Job

Although there is a message about the importance of sharing and cooperation buried within this film, it would take one of the Moles that it features to dig it out. The nonstop action keeps the plot of the film rolling, but fails to ever cease long enough to allow for the quiet moments of reflection and emotion that can be seen in truly classic animated features. I do not believe that kids require incessant action to be entertained, and wish filmmaker Peter Lepeniotis would have had a little bit more faith in their attention spans. Additionally, the cartoon violence within this film did not sit well with me, being neither funny nor necessary.

Since I am clearly not the target audience for a film such as this one, a wise friend recommended that I listen to the audience’s reactions in order to determine whether or not the humour was hitting its mark. Unfortunately, I heard few laughs throughout the screening of this film, neither from children nor from their adult parents. In a nutshell: The Nut Job may provide two hours of amusement for the very young, but will never become an animated classic.

The Breakdown
  • 5/10
    Direction - 5/10
  • 6/10
    Voice Acting - 6/10
  • 5/10
    Screenplay - 5/10
  • 6/10
    Animation - 6/10
  • 7/10
    Music/Sound - 7/10