The Nut Job: A squirrely film

2 out of 4 stars

Thank goodness for Liam Neeson – he certainly knows the art of the rescue.

The badass who freed his daughter from gangsters in Taken 2 in 2012 – just as he did in Taken four years earlier – started 2014 with another impressive rescue: He saved The Nut Job.

the-nut-job-post1He’s definitely not the most important character in director Peter Lepeniotis’ cartoon caper set in the late 1950s in fictional Oakton City where a food storage has the furry critters who call Liberty Park home scared.

But without Neeson, this movie would have gone to the squirrels.

Neeson is the voice of Raccoon – yes, that’s his name – a fat hairball who oversees the nuts stored in the giant oak tree in the middle of the park.

But here’s the problem: Food is running out and winter is coming. So what are the rodents to do? Raid the nut shop across the street, which is being a front by criminals who are using it as one end of a tunnel to reach the vault at a nearby bank.

Squirrels Surly (voice of Will Arnett), Grayson (Brendan Fraser), Andie (Katherine Heigl) team with  Mole (Jeff Dunham) and the bank robbers’ pug named Precious (Maya Rudolph) to steal all the peanuts and cashews while the robbers plan to swap bags of cash with bags of peanuts.

My 6-year-old daughter followed the story, and the 3D animation is good, but not great like in Walking With Dinosaurs.

The dialogue is simple and the kids in audience found it funny when the animals farted.

But here’s the problem: If you are going promote the use of actors and actresses’ voices, then it has to be worth at least $8 for a matinee.

Can you recognize the voices of Arnett, Fraser, Dunham or Heigl instantly? How about Rudolph? Gabriel Iglesias? Stephen Lang? No, no and no.

Now, what about Neeson’s voice? His voice is unmistakable, which is why the bass in his voice brings Raccoon to life, while the rest of the voices detract from their characters.

The Nut Job hasn’t plenty going for it, but customer beware: You’re not seeing the next Lion King, Shrek or Toy Story – animated movies that appealed as much to adults as children. Those movies are worth lofty ticket prices, but The Nut Job isn’t a prime-time event.

It’s a fun, family movie that won’t stay with you much past its 86-minute running time. It’s not going to produce an iconic character like Lion King’s Simba or Toy Story’s Woody. And really, Nut Job’s PG rating should be a G.

Will your children enjoy this movie? Absolutely. Will you enjoy this movie? Not really, but you’ll have fun watching your kids have fun.

Verdict: At best, this is worth seeing on a Saturday or Sunday morning when tickets are cheaper. But watching it on Blu-ray is the best choice.