As someone who prides themselves on watching a large variety of films regularly, I firmly believe that the more new things a director or writer tries in their films the better off the film and the audience are. Consequently, with a movie like The Nut Job, which represents some of the first efforts of a number of different studios, you can’t help but feel like you’re stifling some of that variety you value when you say that it’s absolutely terrible and advise people against watching it. Though, that’s exactly what the film deserves. Though written, oddly enough, by one of the screenwriters of Dreamworks’ Over the Hedge, The Nut Job feels like poorly crafted imitation of that very film. Even the animation, which in some respects is well-polished, feels jerky and appears like it’s only 2/3 complete, as if it’s the semi-complete rendering and the film was put out before it was ready. Even if the animation had been better though, the painfully bad script and voice acting by Will Arnett, Liam Neeson, and Katherine Heigl that always feels out of place doom it anyway.
Maybe The Nut Job was banking on its plot of an animal food heist seeming fresh due to the lukewarm reception Over the Hedge received, or maybe Lorne Cameron just wanted to try the same story again, but whatever the case, The Nut Job is insanely awful if you’ve ever seen a well-written and well-animated movie in your life. The slapstick jokes are all tired and used better in other animated features, and some of them just don’t make any sense (like the lead squirrel Surly hitting his head against a brick wall only to have his head suddenly sucked in to it so an ensuing gag of all the bricks above it dislodging and piling onto his head can occur). It’s the kind of thing that just doesn’t work and would take you out of the moment if the film had ever successfully drawn you in to begin with (which it never does).
All of that leaves us with a story about a squirrel exiled from the rest of the animal community in the park after an incident burns down their winter food supply, forcing him to save his and the other animals’ hides by robbing a nut store which is the front for bank robbers plotting a heist (a subplot that’s useless and really just serves to eat up time so the movie can stretch a 10-minute premise over 83 minutes).
The cast is wasted in this venture, and all of them, even the often unbearable Katherine Heigl, deserve better. Then again, assuming they read the script and still decided to sign on, maybe this stinker is exactly what they deserve. If anyone stands out, it might be Brendan Fraser as he seems to have completely thrown himself into the goofiness of his role (like way back when with George of the Jungle), but the lines he’s reading are still very, very unfunny.
Do yourself a favor, rent or buy Over the Hedge instead. It’s superior in every way.
Blu-ray Bonus Features
This combo pack includes the film on Blu-ray, DVD, and as an iTunes and Ultraviolet digital copy. Extras cover deleted scenes, storyboards, the film’s end credits dance-off, the plot, and some animated shorts.
"The Nut Job" is on sale April 15, 2014 and is rated PG. Animation, Children & Family. Directed by Peter Lepeniotis. Written by Lorne Cameron, Peter Lepeniotis. Starring Brendan Fraser, Katherine Heigl, Liam Neeson, Will Arnett.