By Mark Saldana
Rating: 1.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
More mediocrity and dullness is what this highly unnecessary sequel has to offer. Like the first installment, The Nut Job 2 has an excellent voice cast, but does so little with them. Unfunny attempts at humor and a transparent plot will no doubt bore parents or other grownups accompanying children who might be entertained by the colorful animation and the lively personalities of the characters. And just like I did with the first film, I must strongly recommend that parents save this movie for video when they can either walk away from the TV or simply not pay much attention to this pointless exercise in comedic staleness.
Will Arnett returns to voice the sly and conniving squirrel Surly. Sometime after the events of the first film, Maury’s Nut Shop has been closed and abandoned, but still fully stocked. Surly and most of the animals of Liberty Park have taken over and are living gluttonous lives off the wealth of nuts available. An act of carelessness, however, causes the store to go down in an explosion. With all of their surplus gone, Surly, Buddy (Tom Kenny), Precious (Maya Rudolph), Andie (Katherine Heigl), and the others must return to a life of scavenging in the park and the surrounding areas. A new threat arises in the form of the corrupt mayor of Oakton City (Bobby Moynihan). The mayor hatches a cheap money making scheme by planning to clear all the trees and foliage of their beloved park, and build a ramshackle amusement park. Surly and his friends join forces with a mouse gang leader named Feng (Jackie Chan) to save their home.
Much like the first installment, The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature suffers from weak writing and terrible character development in addition to the failed attempts at humor. The protagonist characters are likable, but underdeveloped, but the antagonists are over-the-top caricatures that are way too on the nose. Writers Bob Barlen, Cal Brunker (who also directs) and Scott Bindley simply fail to take what could have been really fun and exciting characters and fail to deliver a story that sends a resonant message about greed and irresponsibility.
On the positive side, I absolutely love the assortment of voice talents assembled for the movie, but it pains me to see them working with such weak and banal material. Will Arnett brings the perfect charm and wit to Surly. Heigl performs well as the more sensible voice of reason Andie. Maya Rudolph has the right attitude for Precious. The Nut Job 2 also features great voice work by Jackie Chan, Peter Stomare, Bobby Cannavale, Jeff Dunham, Gabriel Iglesias, and Sebastian Maniscalco. Both Bobby Moynihan and Kari Wahlgren commit fully to their roles as Mayor and his spoiled brat daughter Jamie, but their characters are so poorly written and over-the-top, I grew increasingly irritated with their scenes.
I also grew increasingly frustrated as I watched this movie. I sat hoping something funny would happen or that, at the very least, I would be moderately entertained at some point. Though I did laugh a little, (maybe two or three times) I mostly sat in the theater quietly waiting for the movie to end. I actually don’t recall hearing too much laughter from any other audience members attending the screening either. Children seemed entranced by the animation and antics of the talking animals, but had very few reactions otherwise. I think it is time that the producers behind this franchise move on to something else if they cannot hire writers that can elevate the quality of material from the banality of the first two movies.