The Nut Job is strictly fun for kids. They will go nuts for the tale.
But adults may just go nuts waiting for the rather redundant comic humor to end.
The Nut Job is filled with colorful woodland creatures that inhabit an idyllic park. Winter's coming, and they are dangerously low on food. A new supply is needed, especially when squirrel loner Surly (voiced by Will Arnett) puts an even bigger damper on the winter menus.
After being expelled from Liberty Park for actions unbecoming a woodland creature, Surly and his silent sidekick, Buddy, stumble upon the Holy Grail of goobers - a local nut store just ripe for the taking. All they have to do is figure out how to steal the nuts while a group of human bank robbers use the nut house as a means to their local score.
Writer and director Peter Lepeniotis has cobbled together a series of antics loosely bound by the tale of thievery. It's simple enough that children won't spend the entire movie asking questions. The movie never strays far from the narrow good vs. evil path. Most of the time, the creatures are just running around wildly and doing little else.
Even Surly's rogue attitude isn't contrary enough to create any tension. And he's surely not surly enough to make his potential reform all that compelling. But kids probably won't care.
Instead of digging deep for humor, a lot of the comedy comes from cheap jokes about flatulence, falls, and fumbles - the big three F's of elemental comedy. After these three have been repeated for the 20th time, the thrill is gone.
There's little to distinguish this film, from its video-game-looking landscapes to the characters. Ten years ago, the bushy tails of the squirrels would have been amazing. But in this post-Monsters, Inc. world, where Sully set a standard for fur, the animals look no more imaginative than a cable cartoon.
The Nut Job isn't a bad film, although the 3-D is weak; it just isn't very good. Without the high cost of actors like Arnett, Katherine Heigl, Liam Neeson, and Brendan Fraser doing the voices, this could have easily been a safe straight-to-video release.
Even these name actors don't give it the vocal punch that would make The Nut Job anything to get crazy about.
The Nut Job ** (Out of four stars)
Directed by Peter Lepeniotis. With Will Arnett,
Katherine Heigl, Liam Neeson, and Brendan Fraser.
Distributed by Open Road Films (II).
Running time: 1 hour, 26 mins.
Parent's guide: PG (crude humor)
Playing at: area theaters