There is a big problem that arises when a film critic sits down to review an animated flick. The biggest problem here is that most critics don’t understand that these movies are made for KIDS and to judge it on the same level that you would an adult movie is ludicrous. If an animated movie works for children, then the movie deserves to be judged on that level.
However, there is one other major problem with animated movies. Parents have to take their kids to see the movie. Therefore, even if an animated movie works on a base level for your four-year-old, but is a horrible experience for any adult forced to drag them into the screening, then that is a major problem. An animated cartoon movie should be judged on whether or not the kids love it – but it also needs to at least be tolerable for the parents.
The Nut Job works pretty well for little kids, but it fails pretty bad when it comes to entertaining the parents.
For the kids, here is the best recommendation I can give. My son (four years old) said, immediately after the press screening ended, that he wanted to watch it again. He also endlessly throws out a quote from the movie (“What did you have for breakfast?”), so obviously the movie works for kids.
For adults, here is another recommendation. When my son said he wanted to see it again, I said I would make sure that he gets a DVD of the movie – one that he can watch with me nowhere near the television because I don’t ever want to see this movie again.
The Nut Job features a squirrel named Surly (Will Arnett) who is an outcast by choice. There are a ton of woodland creatures (who live in a park in a city) that are led by their fearless leader Raccoon (Liam Neeson) and they are running out of food. Raccoon sends the woodland hero, a squirrel named Grayson (Brendan Fraser) out with a tough female squirrel named Andie (Katherine Heigl) to find food to help them get through the winter. When they find food, they realize Surly beat them there, but they are unwilling to let him have the food and demand it be split with the woodland creatures. One thing leads to another, the giant oak tree that held their food is destroyed, Surly is blamed and kicked out of the park and into the mean streets of the city.
One thing leads to another and Surly decides to help Andie set up a heist where they will steal all the nuts from a nut store. This is paralleled with a heist by the humans who are using the nut store as a front to dig a tunnel to rob a bank. The humans and woodland creatures have parallel counterparts, there are double crosses including a big one that you see coming from a mile away, and everything falls into place exactly how you would expect.
There are some REALLY BAD jokes that kids will laugh at but adults will just shake their head at. This movie was made for kids – yes – but the jokes are so lowbrow that it is nothing more than dumb humor and quotable lines that really aren’t funny for anyone outside of the toddler years. That also doesn’t work because Surly is like a Han Solo character, unlikeable and surly (ugh) and is barely a role model for the kids the movie is aimed at.
I love animated movies and even love ones that others dismiss, such as the Despicable Me flicks. With that said, I don’t dismiss kids movies for not giving me what I want in a film, understanding that kids deserve entertainment as well. However, with so many great animated movies coming out over the years, something as unoriginal, unfunny and uninspired as The Nut Job doesn’t deserve a positive appraisal. Little kids will like it while parents will wish they were anywhere else.