“The Nut Job” Review

Co-produced in South Korea and Canada, this 43 million dollar animated film stars Will Arnett, Katherine Heigl, and Liam Neeson. Based on director Peter Lepeniotis’s short, Surly Squirrel (2005), The Nut Job is a heist film about a banished squirrel named Surly (Will Arnett) and his quest to steal nuts from Maury’s Nut Store – a front for a crime organization. While the film is technically set in the ’50s and toys with some film noir, it never commits to anything and the bank robbery sub-plot just turns into an underdeveloped distraction. Not to say that the rest of the movie is any more focused; there’s a coherent screenplay somewhere within The Nut Job, but the film never settles on a direction and ends up just lingering around for an excruciatingly long 85 minutes.

A big problem with The Nut Job is that none of the characters are likable. It’s not a character study about flawed people though, it’s just a story about a bunch of annoying characters you’re supposed to root for. The film has no knowledge of this fact though, and presents the characters as if they were charismatic and dynamic, when they’re the exact opposite. The actors involved don’t exactly help. Even though the supporting cast is stacked with Brendan Fraser, Maya Rudolph, and Gabriel Iglesias, nobody gives a performance that goes much past apathetic.

The Nut Job might have been more tolerable if there was a single decent joke. Instead, it just gets lazy. The film exaggerates all of the video and audio cues to compensate for its lack of a clever script. None of the physical humor even works. There are times where humor is attempted, but the film is so poorly executed it just comes off as awkward. It’s not even entertaining in the “so-bad-that-it’s-good” sense, it’s just uncomfortable. 

The animation isn’t that good. It’s stylistic, but in a disorienting sense. There is plenty of detail in the foreground, but everything in the background is completely frozen. The resulting effect completely separates the characters from the environment. It’s disconcerting, and this isn’t the film for disconcerting. The effort put into the animation is inconsistent, and seems rather amateurish. There are several action sequences, but even those are poorly put together.

I can’t really think of any redeeming factors for The Nut Job. Nonetheless, I was considering taking pity on the film, simply because it had some production value and wasn’t offensive. I was considering this, until the end credits sequence involving all of the characters dancing along to “Gangnam Style”. There’s no real reason behind it, other than the fact that PSY is still very popular in South Korea. It seemed like the film was mocking the audience actually, especially given the meaning behind the song. It appeared to me as if it was acknowledging that the entire film was just a money grab. The Nut Job doesn’t even try. 1/10.

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