Genre: CG Animation
Director: Cal Brunker
Cast: Will Arnett, Katherine Heigl, Maya Rudolph, Bobby Moynihan, Gabriel Iglesias, Jeff Dunham, Peter Stormare, Bobby Cannavale, Isabela Moner, Jackie Chan
Runtime: 1 hr 31 mins
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 9 September 2017
Synopsis: Surly Squirrel (Will Arnett) and the gang are back. We are once again in Oakton where the evil mayor has decided to bulldoze Liberty Park and build a dangerous amusement park in its place. Surly and his ragtag group of animal friends band together to save their home, defeat the mayor, and take back the park.
Wait – is that the voice of the crime fighting vigilante from The Lego Batman Movie (2017) we are hearing?
Nope, what we are seeing on screen is a Surly, purple squirrel who is also considered a superhero by his peers. You see, in the first Nut Job movie, this rodent saved park animals from a terrible food shortage that, ahem, he unintentionally caused. And this somewhat unlikeable protagonist is voiced by Will Arnett, who happens to portray the caped crusader in The Lego Movie (2014) and its spin off feature starring Lego Batman.
Back to this family friendly animated flick directed by Cal Brunker. What trouble is the cocky squirrel going to cause in this sequel? Who gave the go ahead for the production anyway? Didn’t the 2014 movie, which scored an approval rating of 10% on Rotten Tomatoes, fare badly with the critics?
The movie did make a decent $120.8 million at the box office against its $42.8 million budget, which probably prompted the green lighting of this Canadian South Korean co production. Bringing along with it are its voice actors Arnett, as well as Katherine Heigl (Unforgettable) as a caricatured female squirrel who knows what’s good for the animals, Maya Rudolph (The Emoji Movie) as a pug who likes to lick others, Jeff Dunham (Smurfs: The Lost Village) as a mole and Gabriel Iglesias (Norm of the North) as a groundhog.
The first feature movie was based on Peter Lepeniotis' 2005 short animated film Surly Squirrel, and it managed to stretch for a good 86 minutes. The sequel increases the runtime by five minutes and we must say it must take quite an effort to extend an otherwise simple concept into a full length feature.
The plot is educational: a greedy town mayor threatens to tear down the animals’ home by bulldozing his way through the park to build a new amusement centre. The furry animals, under the leadership of Surly, must find ways to protect their home. In the one and a half hours, you get life lessons learnt from a dozen other animated movies about teamwork, integrity, and all those things which would otherwise be boring printed in textbooks.
More things are happening in this sequel, but it still doesn’t bring anything new for the genre. The character design doesn’t make you sit up, and the predictable storyline isn’t going to win the movie any fans as well. However, kids may be duly entertained with the chatty characters going on and on about saving their home.
Although there are few jokes which adults would appreciate, there are a few chuckle worthy moments. Heigl is dying to break out into a song about why living in nature is good, and Isabela Moner’s (Transformers: The Last Knight) voice is creepily apt for the spoilt brat she voices. Cinephiles will also love the inclusion of voice actors like The Secret Life of Pets’ Bobby Moynihan (as the mercenary mayor), John Wick: Chapter 2’s Peter Stomare (as a deranged animal control officer) and Ant Man’s Bobby Canavale (as a French bulldog with a heart of gold).
Even more entertaining is Jackie Chan’s involvement – the Asian superstar voices the leader of a street mouse gang. He teaches them the art of kung fu, and spouts inspirational dialogue to amusing effect. This smart marketing move is the saving grace of the movie, and we can’t wait for Chan to be back on screen as Master Wu in The Lego Ninjago Movie.
(There are some funny bits in this animated feature targeted at kids, and the best moments are those with Jackie Chan - everyone loves Jackie Chan, right?)
Review by John Li