Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

It's a heist film, see, and things kinda go... nuts

  • Print

If you're going to make cartoons about critters, the late Chuck "Looney Toons" Jones used to preach, build them around the animal's chief concern -- survival. Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck are always avoiding the shotgun and the stew pot. Wile E. Coyote is desperate for a dinner of road runner.

That principle pays off in The Nut Job, a surprisingly simple, funny and often cute slapstick comedy about a squirrel planning a nut heist so that he'll have enough food to last through winter.

Surly (Will Arnett, the perfect voice for cartoons) has always lived just for himself, which irks the other animals of Liberty Park. Chipmunks and mice, moles and groundhogs, they all stock up for the winter, collectively, in a system overseen by Raccoon (Liam Neeson). But Surly and his silent rat pal Buddy are every animal-for-himself guys. Surly's schemes never involve sharing.

Contrast Surly with his fellow squirrel Grayson (Brendan Fraser), because the red squirrel Andie (Katherine Heigl) and every other animal in the park does. The dashing, dopey Grayson is all about heroics, and looking good as he saves the day.

An epic failure to steal a street vendor's nut cart gets Surly labelled "a clear and present danger" to the others, so he is banished from the park. He destroyed the other animals' winter survival stash. Is Surly -- con artist, thief and bully to pigeons -- anxious to make good on what he's cost everyone? Not on your life.

And when he runs across the shop that the nut cart came from, he figures this huge stash is his. It'll take blackmail by Andie, or worse, to get him to share.

But Surly's caper runs right up against what the human owners of the nut shop have in mind. They're wise guys out to rob the bank across the street. The animals, with Surly's grudging co-operation, must race the robbers to see who can pull off his heist first.

The sight gags have a marvellous thunder-clap suddenness to them. Yeah, we can see the squirrel smacked against the windshield stuff coming. But animated movies live and die on their pace, and this one clips along.

The one-liners aren't the best -- "Is that mange, or bubonic plague you're wearing?" But there are just enough of them to get by.

Visual riffs on cops and doughnuts, the poor choice of pug as guard dog (Maya Rudolph), a violently testy Girl Scout and plenty of "throw nuts and squirrels at the 3-D screen" jokes make The Nut Job kid-friendly.

And if that fails to do the trick, throw in a few cut-the-cheese jokes. Yeah, groundhogs are flatulent.

Veteran animator Peter Lepeniotis, a Pixar vet expanding a short film he made years ago, ensures that the animation is quite good. And there's an adorable closing credits dance-off that underlines the film's Korean production lineage.

So no, it's not Pixar or Dreamworks or Disney or Blue Sky. But The Nut Job is still better than any animated film released in the doldrums of January has a right to be.

 

-- McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 17, 2014 D6

History

Updated on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 8:52 AM CST: adds video

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Family of Matias De Antonio speaks outside Law Courts

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A goose cools off Thursday in water at Omands Creek Park-See Bryksa 30 day goose challenge- Day 25– June 21, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Two Canada geese fly Wednesday afternoon at Oak Hammock Marsh- Front bird is banded for identification- Goose Challenge Day 3- - Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What are you most looking forward to this Easter weekend?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google