The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature (2017) Review

This time, Surly (voiced by Will Arnett) and his furry friends must find ways to stop Oakton City’s corrupted mayor (Bobby Moynihan) from demolishing their home.

The first Nut Job in 2014 wasn’t anywhere near memorable, let alone being a good animated feature. Even with the refreshingly noir-ish element and a dash of heist genre, the first movie was pretty much a substandard effort. Now comes the sequel or more appropriately, the sequel that (nobody) really asking for. The reason for its existence? I guess it’s all down to the first movie’s worldwide box-office success, which manages to rake over US$120 million against its US$42 million budget.

In The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature, the sequel is now replaced by Cal Brunker whose credits include directing 2013’s Escape from Planet Earth and storyboarding popular animated features like Despicable Me (2010), Minions (2015) and The Secret Life of Pets (2016). For those who are thinking Brunker is doing a better job than the original director Peter Lepeniotis, the sequel doesn’t improve much either. It does, however, gets a few things right. The animation is considerably better than the shoddy-looking original (just don’t expect Pixar-like quality, though). Will Arnett, who reprised his voice character as Surly, is decent enough while Katherine Heigl’s Andie and Maya Rudolph’s Precious deliver competent supporting roles.

While the sequel benefits from a faster pace this time around, the script — written by Brunker alongside Bob Barlen and Scott Bindley — is all about being loud and frenetic. That explains the lack of a solid storyline in this movie. It’s like as if the script was written on the fly. Even the title feels like a cheat. How is it a movie called The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature has little to do with nuts? At least the first movie stays true to the title and the sequel is actually more about “saving the park”. Apart from some of the aforementioned voice performances, the overall characters development is almost non-existent. Sure, there is a lot of action that zips in a slapstick mode. It’s violent and it’s colourful in a Looney Tunes-type of craziness. But really, it’s all visual noises and distractions. Kids may love it but for the rest of us, the overindulgences of the action sometimes feel like a torture to sit through.

Then, there is one joke I can’t believe it was shown on the screen. It was actually a barf joke, which involves a bulldog named Frankie (voiced by Bobby Cannavale) literally vomits out his food and… you guess it, he eats them back. I don’t know whether it meant to be funny or otherwise. But that particular scene almost made me feel queasy.

Finally, The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature also introduced Jackie Chan as an angry leader of a street mouse gang named Mr Feng. It’s just too bad he doesn’t leave much of a lasting impression with his limited voice performance.

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