THE NUT JOB 2: NUTTY BY NATURE. US, 2017, 91 minutes, Colour. Voices of: Will Arnett, Maya Rudolph, Bobby Cannavale, Bobby Moynihan, Isabella Moner, Peter Stormae, Gabriel Iglesias. Directed by Cal Brunker.
This animation feature was a surprise. The original film, The Nut Job, seemed conventional enough entertainment for young children. This sequel is much better – and quite entertaining for adults, even for reviewers.
The animation was done in South Korea for this American production. The animation is fairly straightforward, the setting in Liberty Park and the background of the city, but the action is mainly in the park. The main time outside the park is spent in the office of the avaricious and corrupt Mayor, seen with his cronies, a drawer full of bribes (‘political contributions’, of course), envious of the park which does not produce any revenue. Plan: destroy the park, build a theme park, rake in the cash.
However, the main attention, of course, is on the animals from the park, mainly squirrels, a mole, a rat, some groundhogs, dogs… And they all have very entertaining voices. But, at the opening, they are all indulging in an abandoned nut shop, greed galore. However, Andy, a very nice squirrel, is advocating the traditions, instincts, collecting nuts, storing them for the winter. She doesn’t have a chance, even as she appeals to the leader, Surly.
Clearly, there is going to be a confrontation between the Mayor and the animals. It should be noted that the Mayor has a most horrible daughter, Heather, spoilt and aggressive, attention-seeking who must inevitably get her comeuppance (as she and her father do).
In many ways, as with so many animation stories, there is a bit of moralising. Andy makes a great appeal to the animals not to take the easy way out, but to rise to challenges. And this is the case when they face the demolition of the park and decide to move into protest mode and to sabotage. And, when the theme park opens (with a lot of shoddy work to cut costs), they go to work with demolition. The point being made is that all individuals can take a stand, but when they collaborate, they can be very effective.
So, there is a lot of action throughout the film to keep the young audience attentive – with enough, characters and physical comedy. This is particularly the case with a group of mice, ousted from the park but deciding to get training in martial arts as well as Eastern meditation techniques – with the leader voiced by Jackie Chan (and a nice little bonus during the final credits when Chan himself is photographed recording his voice).
Will Arnett is very strong as Surly, a leader yet a bit on the lazy side, challenged by Andy (Katherine Heigl) to be his better self, be a role model, caught in an adventure which has its ups and downs. Maya Rudolph and Bobby Canavale enjoy themselves as the two romantic pugs, Precious and Frank.
Adult audiences will enjoy the verbal humour, puns, jokes and parodies.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.