The Nut Job (2014)

(On Cable TV, August 2014) The good news are that the universe of computer-generated movies is expanding, allowing newer players to compete against the Pixar/Dreamworks powerhouses of the field.  Of course, this is an unfair comparison for most of the new players out there: it takes time, money and expertise to develop animation studios and the best one can hope from new payers is a decent showing.  Which is why even if Toonbox/Redrover’s Canadian/South Korean collaboration The Nut Job may not amount to much more than a semi-successful attempt to deliver an animated animal adventure for kids, it’s perhaps more interesting for what it promises next than for what it delivers now.  There’s certainly a number of dumb decisions built into the script itself: While the need for a protagonist that emotionally evolves along the course of a story is understandable, there’s no reason to make this protagonist as purely unpleasant as he is.  The script has occasional moments of brilliance (interweaving scenes, cleverly exploiting the elements initially set up), but it doesn’t quite have the flow and sustained build-up of better animated films.  The Nut Job opens itself up to all sorts of second-guessing from an audience wondering why the characters don’t use other means to get to achieve their goals, and the roughness of its edges doesn’t gain it any sympathy points.  By the time the credits roll, we’re more confounded by the instantly-dated decision to include a computer-animated Psy dancing to “Gangnam Style” alongside the film’s animal characters than anything else.  As an avowed fan of squirrels, I’m all for movies featuring one of them as a main character –but it would be even better if I could cheer for him throughout rather than wait for the last-act redemption.  Still, let’s see what’s next from Toonbox/Redrover.

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