Last updated: January 19. 2014 6:43PM - 746 Views
By Scott Hall

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“The Nut Job” was directed by Peter Lepeniotis who is virtually an unknown, but has worked as an animator on Toy Story 2 and a handful of other well known pictures. It stars the voice talents of Will Arnett (Surly), Liam Neeson (Raccoon), Katherine Heigl (Andie), Brendan Fraser (Grayson) and Maya Rudolph (Precious). It has a runtime of 1 Hour and 26 minutes and is rated PG for mild action and rude humor.

“The Nut Job” is another one of those kooky, computer animated animal movies filled to the brim with sight gags and run-of-the-mill shenanigans. It focuses on the careless Surly (Arnett) - a rambunctious squirrel that has been ousted by his clan of fellow woodland creatures. Along with his best friend, Buddy (a rat with very little to say), Surly is always out for number one and has a ton of schemes to ensure that he will always get what he needs at any cost. Surly takes his friendships and fellow animals for granted as he is faced with some very tough decisions in this movie. His alliances and personal emotions fall under fire as he is banished from the park to live in the city by Raccoon (Neeson). His sentence is carried out after inadvertently setting fire to the large oak tree which provides shelter and food storage for the rest of the animals of the park.

Surly is a very resourceful character. He is a fast-thinker and can turn a bad situation around through the avenues of his cunning and quick wit. While he tries to be a loner, he relies heavily on the actions of Buddy and everyone else that he encounters. There are a lot of entertaining scenes that involve a guard dog, Precious (Rudolph) and Surly that became a very valuable asset for this movie. They start off as instant enemies until the tables turn in Surly’s favor once he finds a way to manipulate the dog. Things get even funnier after they become friends.

Nobody can beat Disney/Pixar when it comes to this kind of movie. “The Nut Job” has so many studio credits before the film that I had no idea who to blame or thank for bringing it to theatres. That being said, they somehow all came together to pull off some wonderful details. I often look beyond the story and its characters at things like the background scenery and textures of everyday objects. There were so many unbelievably realistic things on that screen that I actually googled a few props afterward to see if they really existed. One scene took place in a defunct retail nut shop. In this shop were coin-op rides and several 50s era vending machines. I believe one of them was a cowboy and one was a robot. They each looked like something right out of an episode of “American Restoration” and had such a realistic look about them. The city was also a wonder to behold. You never realize just how many different surfaces there are until you see a work of art that someone had to meticulously recreate for a movie.

I have been a bit burnt out on animated animal movies over the past few years. This one felt a lot like “Over the Hedge,” but with a lot less panache. While it was mildly enjoyable, I feel like they could have taken more time making the characters feel important with a lot less mindlessness. Take, for instance, the onslaught of “fart jokes” that seemed to take over many of the conversations in the movie. Once might be funny, but this movie had more toots than the famed bean scene from “Blazing Saddles.”

Aside from the snowballing success of Disney’s “Frozen” (pun intended - oh yes I did), the cinemas have been a bit shy of having anything that you could take your children to see. “The Nut Job” may not be the best thing to hit the theatres this year, but if you are itching to take the fam out for an enjoyable flick this weekend, it will be good enough to entertain you all. The kids will definitely enjoy it. My daughter has already asked if we can buy it when it comes out on blu-ray and wanted me to tell you all how funny it is when the dog shakes her butt. So there. You have been informed.

I am going to give “The Nut Job” 3 out of 5 popped kernels. It could have been more than it was, but it was still an enjoyable feature.

“The Nut Job” is playing at the following theatres:

The Strand in Delaware - Friday: 5:15 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. | Saturday: 2 p.m., 4:45 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. | Sunday: 2 p.m., 4:45 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Rave Motion Pictures at Polaris – 12:05 p.m., 4:45 p.m. and 7:10 p.m. | Also showing in Real-D 3D at 9:45 a.m., 2:25 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

Scott Hall is movie critic for the Delaware Gazette

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