The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature
To do justice to The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature, I’m going to follow the advice of Thumper the rabbit from another animated movie called Bambi. He counsels viewers, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”
The people who tried to bring cartoon rodents to life in this film probably need a hug or something positive to strive for because their movie can best be described as an opportunity for continuous improvement. Director Cal Brunker and his cohorts can sleep well at night knowing they have nowhere to go but up.
Brunker has contributed to a lot of good films like Despicable Me (where he worked as a storyboard artist), so we can be grateful that he conserved his talent for movies like those and didn’t waste it on the second installment of Surly Squirrel’s (voice of Will Arnett) seemingly endless search for nuts and legumes.
Arnett was a riot as the self-absorbed Lego Batman, but this time around he has been freed of the burden of being funny by screenwriters who don’t waste their time finding redeeming traits for Surly or even coming up with zingers like the ones he delivered as a bat instead of a squirrel. In what may be the best line reading of her career, Katherine Heigl (as fellow varmint Andie) perfectly encapsulates the film when she tells Arnett, “You’re not as funny as you think you are.”
When the nut shop that fronted for a hideout for bank robbers in the first
movie blows up (it thankfully doesn’t matter why), Surly and Andie have to find new food sources. They can’t forage Liberty Park because Oaktown’s Mayor (former SNL comic Bobby Moynihan) wants to turn the tax-guzzling park into a profit-spewing amusement park.
Oaktown is a unique community. The construction workers speak in Noo Yawk “Dees Dem Dose” accents while the Mayor speaks in a quasi-Southern drawl. Neither will confuse children with any hint of authenticity. Similarly, viewers who like their sermons against government and corporate greed delivered with the subtlety of a Hiroshima blast will have their prayers answered here.
The product placement for Blue Diamond smoked almonds is not hypocrisy at all because it’s a pleasant reminder of something one might do rather than watch the film. I had a sample handed to me at the screening, and if you’re hard up for cash, you have just the delicious almonds if you wish. The movie will likely be free on YouTube shortly.
In some sequels, the characters grow or change, but Nutty by Nature doesn’t burden viewers with having to guess how characters have changed because they’re just as irritating as they were in the previous installment. Some of my peers lamented that it was hard to watch The Nut Job because Surly was such a narcissistic oaf.
Actually, the filmmakers have expanded their range here. The first film had several gags involving flatulence, but the new film has moved on to other popular discharges.
If you made a bet that Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” would make it into the soundtrack, you can rejoice because someone remembered how it was used to better effect in Easy Rider and Lost in America, so the music can remind you of more entertaining films.
Jackie Chan gets to play a mouse that looks like all the other mice in the movie, but it’s fitting that a man who has broken just about every bone in his body to entertain viewers actually gives it his all here. As with his Hong Kong films, there are outtakes of him flubbing a line or two. His dedication is endearing.
The sight of a few seconds of him struggling to turn his insipid dialogue into comedy gold almost atones for the footage that preceded it. It’s astonishing how close he comes to an alchemy that the other filmmakers can’t quite achieve.
Maybe Thumper could have come up with a nicer way to say that.
Jackie Chan voices Mr. Feng — one of these identical-looking mice — in the animated