Sunday 3 August 2014

Review: The Nut Job

World of Blackout Film Review

The Nut Job Poster

The Nut Job
Cert: U / 86 mins / Dir. Peter Lepeniotis
WoB Rating: 3/7

Originally released back in January for US audiences, this American/South Korean co-production seems to have sat uncomfortably with UK distributors who eventually decided 'well, if we bang it out in the Summer holidays, what's the worst than can happen?'. On this thread, it's worth noting that despite the 'Real-D' logo on the movie's poster, my local is only showing this in 2D, which seems incredibly half-arsed on The Weinstein Co UK's part (all other 3D movies are shown in both versions, locally). Then again, after the thorough pasting the movie's had in the US, I imagine they're past caring at this point.

A curious mix of 1930's-era sets and costumes with 21st century character-design for the animals, the film feels disjointed and off-kilter. It's debatable if the target audience (ie the small people) will pick up on this since the heist-plot and slapstick-action are fluid enough, but the wisecracking quips of Will Arnett as Surly the Squirrel probably won't be enough to hold the attention of parents and guardians. Arnett gives, for the most part, the same performance he put in as Batman in The Lego Movie, albeit with a script which isn't as sharp. Katherine Heigl and Brendan Fraser read their lines affably (if blandly) enough as squirrels Andie and Grayson, and Liam Neeson voices Raccoon (a raccoon - really) without wandering into his Irish brogue for once. As catty as this sounds, it really seems like Neeson's the only one making any sort of real effort here. Yes, exactly.

Visually speaking, The Nut Job is mostly adequate (damning with faint praise, I know), although it seems as if different teams of animators handled the human and animal characters (and again for Surly's dog-whistle that he wears like a rifle, which sometimes seems to have been added on in post-production). Although the creatures themselves feel derivative of other animated features, the detailing on their fur is outstanding, and in complete contrast to the pastel scenery and plastic-looking gangsters. It feels like the animators have tried to channel the charm and aesthetic of a Merrie Melodies feature, but with the studio-heads yelling at them to 'make it more like Pixar'.

And just when you thought the disparity couldn't get any wider, the end-credits of the film feature the animated incarnation of Psy, leading the cast of characters through an entire rendition of Gangnam Style. Y'know, for no real reason. Clearly this is a cultural nod from the South Korean branch of the animation studio, but it'd feel dated enough back during the film's original January release; now it feels positively antiquated (if only because all the parodies and cover versions were done back in 2012 when it was still topical).

So what we end up with is a remarkably nondescript animation which looks like it took a lot of people a lot of time to make. By no means an absolute dud, The Nut Job is more of a sweet-natured mess, combining elements which aren't too individually shabby, but don't slot together as intended, and the resulting film never rises above mediocre.

Best suited to a younger, perhaps more undemanding audience, this is a movie for a rainy afternoon.

Is the trailer representative of the film?
Well, kinda. I suppose.

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?
Not really. Not as much as I was supposed to, at any rate.

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?
Not really.

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
This is a DVD to keep the kids entertained.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Will I watch it again?
I can't foresee that happening.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
There isn't.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

And my question for YOU is…
I know that in animation it's commonplace to record characters' dialogue-tracks at different times, but am I alone in getting the impression that the principle cast recorded theirs in different places, as well? Without them having heard the other participants in the conversations they were reading?

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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