DIRECTOR: Peter Lepeniotis
VOICE CAST: Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Liam Neeson, Katherine Heigl, Stephen Lang, Maya Rudolph
RUNNING TIME: 84 minutes


WHILE centring a film on an anti-hero is a tried and tested theory, you have to at least make him somewhat likeable.

The makers of The Nut Job do such a good job of making their hero unlikeable, that they scupper themselves before they even begin.

The basic story is that squirrel Surly (voiced by Arnett) is exiled from his park community, but ends up helping them to find enough food for winter. He tries to raid a nut store, which is being used as a front for a bank heist – hence there is a human angle, too.

The caper plot for animals and humans alike doesn’t stretch very far, so all in all, there’s not much to recommend here.

Little kids who are into animated anthropomorphised animals – given human characteristics – might like the nut-stealing squirrelly, selfish squirrel, Surly, if they could make it to the end, but only if they have never encountered Ice Age’s master nut-stealer Scrat.

But that means sitting through a caper film which forcibly mixes human and animal action, with no sparkle or personality. None of the characters really stands out and the film is bland.

Ratatouille’s rats were just as disreputable as these ones, but that Pixar film’s characterisation was so much better because the voice acting brought them to life, plus the script was so much punchier.

Here the dialogue is uninspiring and none of the big name voices bring any sort of flair to their roles. Liam Neeson may imbue his Aslan with nobility in The Chronicles of Narnia but his raccoon boss in The Nut Job is just whiny and boring.

The animation is 3D animals moving through a drab 2D background, a curious mix of extreme attention to detail (like the individual hairs on the squirrel’s tail) versus a muddy mishmash, like barely delineated pastel leaves on a tree.

The humans and the buildings hark back in look to a cartoon version of 1940s gangster noir films, and adults who somehow keep their wits about them might even spot some references to some films of those times, but there is not enough to make it a thing worth looking for.

The film references are lost among a welter of flatulence jokes, which give way to nut jokes, none of which were funny when they start the film, nor when they pop up again in the middle, or at the end.

And then, to cap the sheer randomness of it all, an animated little Psy pops up over the end-credits to sing Gangnam Style.

It is a Korean production, after all.

If you liked Free Birds or Planes you will like this.