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‘The Nut Job 2’ not that nutty

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Inoffensive animated sequel pleasant enough

We all have our quirks when it comes to personal taste. Particularly when it comes to our consumption of entertainment – we all have things that we enjoy more than most. And when the Venn diagrams of our entertainment eccentricities start to overlap, we find ourselves enjoying an experience that many others might find less engaging.

Which brings us to “The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature.”

See, over my years of steady movie consumption, I’ve learned some truths about myself. One, I delight in second- and third-tier animated family fare. Not Pixar and not bottom of the barrel junk, but the innocuous stuff with the occasional half-hearted attempt to engage the grown-ups. Two, I take weird enjoyment in seeing sequels to films I never saw, for reasons likely far too esoteric to bother explaining.

Long story short, I enjoyed myself more than anyone could reasonably expect.

“The Nut Job 2” picks up from where, I assume, the previous film left off. Led by shiftless layabout squirrel Surly (Will Arnett, “The LEGO Batman Movie”), a group of critters has abandoned the nearby park and taken up residence in the nut-laden basement of a shuttered shop. Along with his mute rat friend Buddy and pug pal Precious (Maya Rudolph, “The Emoji Movie”), Surly has won the hearts of many of his woodland brethren buy ensuring they’ll never need to forage again.

Fellow squirrel Andie (Katherine Heigl, “Unforgettable”) isn’t sold on the idea of life in a basement, insisting on remaining in the park and continuing to forage and scrounge and generally do squirrel things.

Unfortunately, it can’t last. Circumstances conspire to force Surly and his crew back out into the park just as the evil money-hungry Mayor (Bobby Moynihan, “The Book of Henry”) decides to raze the whole thing and convert it into an amusement park whose sole purpose is to funnel even more money into his pockets.

And so Surly and Andie have to team up (Again? Maybe? I honestly don’t know) to help save their home from being destroyed to make way for cotton candy stands and structurally unsound carnival rides. There are hijinks and shenanigans and then the credits roll.

To make this abundantly clear – “The Nut Job 2” is not a good movie. I won’t go so far as to condemn it as a BAD movie, but it is not what any reasonable person would call good.

That said, it suited my sensibilities. There’s something comforting in sitting down and watching an animated film with a faux-Looney Tunes sensibility and some half-baked lessons for an hour and a half. The gags are fine, if a bit hackneyed. There are a few unsubtle winks at the adults in the audiences. The vocal performances aren’t anything special, but nor are they especially off-putting. It’s a serviceable enough placeholder of a movie.

Add to that my odd joy at watching sequels without seeing originals and we’ve got a positive experience. For me. Can’t stress that enough – my own proclivities led to whatever enjoyment I found here. Your mileage will most certainly vary.

The film – directed by Cal Brunker from a script he co-wrote with Bob Barlen – certainly doesn’t reinvent the wheel. Goofy jokes, recurring bits, basic narrative and moral simplicity – it’s the kind of kiddie flick that will probably get plenty of play quieting irritable children in playrooms and minivan backseats in the months to come.

Arnett’s Surly is basically a slightly smarter Gob Bluth. Heigl somehow manages to come off as a non-entity even when she’s voicing a cartoon squirrel, which is pretty remarkable when you think about it. Rudolph is fine. Moynihan is fine. Jackie Chan (as Mr. Feng, leader of an army of adorable Kung Fu mice) is kind of delightful. Notables like Bobby Cannavale, Jeff Dunham and Gabriel Iglesias fill out the cast in a generally OK, check-cashing kind of way.

“The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature” isn’t really all that nutty. It’s got a few highlights – if you’ve ever wanted to see a hazmat suit filled with mice do karate, you’ll be pleased – but for the most part, it simply … is. It’s certainly not the kind of movie that’ll challenge young viewers, but it won’t cause any problems either. Mostly harmless.

[2 out of 5]

Last modified on Wednesday, 16 August 2017 11:59

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