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Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature

The only thing I remember about the original Nut Job movie is the end credits, which featured an out of the blue appearance by Korean singer, PSY, doing a rendition of his signature song, "Gangnam Style", and dancing with the CG animal cast from the film.  It was completely nonsensical and had nothing to do with the movie, but that's kind of what made it so memorable.  Sadly, nothing memorable of the sort happens in The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature.  It's a fairly garden variety kid's movie that gets out a couple cute moments, before it jarringly turns mean-spirited and violent in the last 20 minutes.

Back once again is the hero of the last movie, Surly Squirrel (voiced by Will Arnett).  The fact that there's actually a character named Surly in a kid's film is funnier than anything he says or does.  Surly and his animal friends are enjoying the unlimited nuts that the abandoned nut store they discovered in the last film provides.  Everyone has gotten used to the easy life of not having to hunt and forage for food anymore, except for Surly's best squirrel gal pal Andie (Katherine Heigl), who thinks that this way of life is unnatural for park animals.  Eventually the nut shop blows up in an accident involving the boiler, and the animals are now forced to go back to their old habits of living in the park and hunting for their food.  It's right about this time that the city's crooked Mayor (Bobby Moynihan) decides that he wants to tear the park down and put up an amusement park in its place.  He cuts every corner (he only orders condemned rides for the park, since they're cheaper), and orders cruel animal control agents to chase the animals out of their homes.  That's when Surly and his friends decide to fight back.

There are some fleeting positive moments in The Nut Job 2.  I liked it when Andie tries to lift the spirits of the other animals by singing a musical number, but she is quickly cut off by Surly, who tells her that simply breaking into song spontaneously is just plain strange.  Sadly, this is the highest level the humor here ever gets to, as a majority of the jokes are built around puns.  When Surly enlists a gang of Kung Fu mice to help with their cause of fighting back against the Mayor, the leader of the mice, Mr. Feng (Jackie Chan), says that he is "a weapon of mouse destruction".  We also get a scene where the little pug dog from the last movie, Precious (Maya Rudolph), meets another dog named Frankie (Bobby Cannavale), and they become an item and start calling themselves "Frecious".  This leads to a moment where Frankie shows his affection by regurgitating his last meal so that Precious can dine on it.  Yes.

The movie also develops a surprisingly vicious and mean streak as it goes along.  It starts when it introduces the Mayor's bratty and spoiled daughter (Isabella Moner), who enjoys torturing animals and ripping the heads off of her dolls for fun.  She definitely takes after her father, who not only enjoys torturing animals, but also likes to drive on the sidewalk and plow into citizens.  When his amusement park is constructed, not only is it a literal death trap due to all of the condemned rides, but the scenes where the animals fight to win their home back is incredibly violent, and filled with scenes of the animals almost killing some of the guests.  We see a burning Ferris Wheel ride go off its hinges and run over some fleeing people, and the mice using their vicious Kung Fu attacks on patrons.  None of this is done in the slapstick manner you would expect from a film like this.

The best thing that can be said about The Nut Job 2 is that the animation is quite good, and an improvement over the original.  But, it easily winds up joining the list of disappointing animated features we've had this summer, as well as in 2017 in general.  Should there be another sequel, I hope they make the animals a little nicer.  Except Surly.  He needs to live up to his name more.

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