‘The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Na­ture’

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Katie Walsh cal­en­dar@la­times.com

The an­i­mated se­quel has its prob­lems but also has a point.

You never know where you’re go­ing to find the most rad­i­cal ideas. A sub­par an­i­mated film se­quel in­tended to quiet the kids for a few hours on a weekend af­ter­noon burns with a pro­le­tar­ian rage. You’d never ex­pect that from “The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Na­ture,” but some­how, it’s true.

First, a warn­ing about truth (or lack thereof ) in ad­ver­tis­ing. In “The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Na­ture,” there is no job that in­volves nuts, as promised by the ti­tle. The first “Nut Job” may have in­volved a nut heist, and the city-dwelling ro­dents around whom the story re­volves may be de­scribed as “nutty by na­ture,” in ref­er­ence to their predilec­tion for the crunchy, pro­tein-packed treats, but most of the nut-re­lated con­tent of this film falls only in the first few min­utes. These mo­ments are a cel­e­bra­tion of the nut-based life, as Surly the Squir­rel (Will Ar­nett) and his ro­dent pals en­joy a Dionysian feast of nuts, seeds and legumes in the base­ment of a closed Nut Shop.

This plen­ti­ful abun­dance of free food, how­ever, is all too easy, and soon, the en­tire shop has been blown to smithereens, the re­sult of an er­rant boiler valve. At any rate, the moral of “The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Na­ture” is that there is very lit­tle value in “easy” — no hard work, no char­ac­ter build­ing, no wild an­i­mal in­stincts. This is the ethos es­poused by the fin­ger-wag­ging nag of a squir­rel Andie (Kather­ine Heigl), who is op­posed to Surly’s grifter ten­den­cies. Alas, in the wake of the Nut Shop ex­plo­sion, it’s back to the scrounge ’n’ gather way of life for Surly and pals, if that way of life even ex­ists any­more.

“The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Na­ture,” di­rected and cowrit­ten by Cal Brunker, is a sear­ing in­dict­ment of cap­i­tal­is­tic gov­ern­ment cor­rup­tion, em­bod­ied by the cravenly crim­i­nal Mayor of Oak­ton City (Bobby Moyni­han). In seek­ing to wring ev­ery drop of profit from his prov­ince, he de­stroys and de­vel­ops the city park where these ro­dents en­joy a col­lec­tive life­style, in or­der to build an amuse­ment park, Lib­erty Land, a mon­u­ment to crass con­sumerism and cut­ting cor­ners. When the ro­dents re­sist this de­vel­op­ment, the Mayor un­leashes ex­ter­mi­na­tors to vi­o­lently sup­press the up­ris­ing.

That’s not the only com­mu­nist el­e­ment of the film — just wait un­til you see the army of kung fu-trained Chi­nese mice, led by the furry, fe­ro­cious Mr. Feng (Jackie Chan), who join the ro­dent in­sur­gents in their re­bel­lion against their greedy hu­man op­pres­sors. They too have been driven from their park, now a golf course. The most ter­ri­fy­ingly sadis­tic vil­lain hap­pens to be Heather (Is­abela Moner), the Mayor’s daugh­ter, a fiery-haired bour­geois de­mon in a small child’s body; a Veruca Salt with a tran­quil­izer dart gun.

This is a film of ex­cesses and ex­tremes. From the or­gias­tic fes­ti­val of nuts that the film opens with, to the vi­o­lent, car­ni­va­lesque may­hem that it de­scends into, “Nutty by Na­ture” is a re­lent­less melee. It’s a tor­nado of whirling dervish ro­dents bat­tling ham-fisted hu­mans over the sanc­tity of their land, which has been turned from a ver­dant par­adise into a dark and hellish land­scape of re­pur­posed goods and shoddy crafts­man­ship, in­tended to drop ev­ery ex­cess dol­lar in the Mayor’s pocket. It’s an un­ex­pect­edly rad­i­cal, if oth­er­wise rather rote an­i­mated se­quel.

Open Road Films

S U R LY (voiced by Will Ar­nett), left, and Andie (voiced by Kather­ine Heigl) fight a de­vel­op­ment.

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