The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature

The-Nut-Job-2-rev The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature  (2017)    Open Road/Comedy-Adventure    RT: 91 minutes    Rated PG (action, some rude humor)    Director: Cal Brunker    Screenplay: Cal Brunker, Bob Barlen and Scott Bindley    Music: Heitor Pereira    Release date: August 11, 2017 (US)    Cast: Will Arnett, Katherine Heigl, Maya Rudolph, Bobby Cannavale, Bobby Moynihan, Isabela Moner, Peter Stormare, Jackie Chan, Jeff Dunham, Gabriel Iglesias, Sebastian Maniscalco, Kari Wahlgren, Tom Kenny.    

Rating: fullstar1fullstar1star-empty1star-empty1   

 Saying that The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature is a slight (and I mean slight) improvement over the first movie is like saying root canal is slightly more desirable than extraction. It’s a little less painful but you’d still rather not bother. What gives this sequel its bump is Jackie Chan who voices a temperamental mouse (don’t ever call him cute) who leads a street gang of kung fu mice. He’s always a welcome presence and it’s especially true here. He gets off the movie’s one and only funny line when he refers to himself as “a weapon of mouse destruction”. Yeah, I know, it’s corny as hell. You don’t know whether to chuckle or groan. Chan makes it work. It’s the only time I laughed at Nut Job 2.

nut job 2 It hasn’t been the best summer for animated films. Both Cars 3 and Despicable Me 3 underperformed. Captain Underpants didn’t find the audience it deserved. Then there’s The Emoji Movie which was little more than a feature-length product promotion yet it’s still managed to pull in just under $60 million in two weeks. Nut Job 2, a sequel nobody was clamoring for in the first place, is the latest CA misfire. It’s not that it’s a bad movie (it’s mediocre), it’s just unnecessary. Does anybody even remember the first Nut Job? All I remember is that it had something to do with a squirrel trying to break into a nut shop.

 From what I gather, Nut Job 2 opens where the first one left off with our hero Surly the squirrel (Arnett, Arrested Development) and his furry pals celebrating their windfall of legumes after successfully gaining entry to the basement of the now-closed nut shop. Life for them is one big party until Surly makes the mistake of saying, “It’s not like the nut shop’s gonna explode.” Even a five-year-old knows what will happen once somebody utters those magic words. KA-BOOM! It’s back to the park to forage for food like little animals are supposed to do. That’s according to girl-squirrel Andie (Heigl, 27 Dresses), a killjoy who constantly nags Surly about the importance of team work and working hard.

 Meanwhile, the town’s greedy, corrupt mayor (Moynihan, formerly of SNL) decides to turn the park into a tacky and unsafe amusement park since it’s not making him any money as a public space. The man is a first-rate creep who openly orders the cutting of corners in the construction of the park. As if the animals didn’t have enough of a problem with their shortage of food, now they have to run from bulldozers, construction workers and a psycho animal control officer (Stormare, Fargo). Oh yeah, there’s also the mayor’s psycho-brat daughter (Moner, Transformers: The Last Knight) who I’m convinced was separated at birth from the evil metal-mouthed brat in Finding Nemo. The way she treats animals (and dolls) is one of those signs to look out for.

 It all comes down to Surly leading his friends, including the martial arts mice, in a massive attack on the amusement park and the humans who don’t care about the environment. His posse includes moles, groundhogs, chipmunks, woodchucks and his best pal, Buddy the silent rat. There’s also a pug named Precious (Rudolph, also heard in Emoji Movie) with a penchant for slurping others. She becomes involved with Frankie (Cannavale, Ant-Man), a New York-Italian sounding pug belonging to the little girl. They’re actually funny too but I could have lived without the scene of Frankie vomiting and eating it. We all know dogs do gross stuff like that, we don’t need to see it. It’s not funny, it’s gross as is anything involving vomit. YUCK!

 I need to revise my earlier statement about laughing only once during Nut Job 2. I also laughed when they showed outtakes during the end credits of Chan’s character doing multiple takes of a scene where he punches Surly. As fans know, his movies always feature outtakes of Chan’s botched stunts at the end. It’s a nice add. If only the rest of Nut Job 2 was this clever. It’s not. It’s routine and derivative of other CA movies, most notably Ice Age (you know, Skrat and his beloved acorn). Arnett is annoying as Surly, a lazy character always looking for quick, easy solutions to problems. Heigl is pretty annoying too. It’s one thing for the villains to be unlikable. That rotten little girl is the best argument for child abuse that I’ve ever seen. When the heroes are unlikable, then you’ve got a real problem. I can get behind their cause but I can’t get behind them.

 Nut Job 2 is, obviously, aimed at kids. It’ll keep the under-8 crowd engaged (their parents and older siblings, not so much). What I find myself wondering is if they’ll understand ideas like corrupt politicians and bribery. I didn’t know what either of those was until after I hit the double-digits. They’ll get that the mayor wants to destroy the animals’ home but that’s about it.

 In general, Nut Job 2 isn’t all that good a movie. At best, it’s mildly amusing in parts. The storyline isn’t anything new or special. It’s hardly even interesting. The computer-animation is as generic as it gets. I honestly don’t understand why they made it. Like I said, nobody asked for a sequel to The Nut Job. I don’t see it making a lot of money at the box office. There’s a reason the studio dumped it into theaters in mid-August. It’s definitely not worth a trip to the movies (do the math, two parents and two kids). If your kids really want to see it, tell them to wait the two months it will take for it to hit DVD then you can get it from Redbox for a buck or two. That way, you don’t have to watch it with them; you can get an early start on next year’s taxes instead.

BTW, stay through the end credits for a bonus scene at the end that threatens us with a Nut Job 3. 

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