Released: 11th January 2018 (Australia)
Seen: 17th January 2018
Directed by: Cal Brunker
Written by: Bob Barlen, Cal Brunker & Scott Bindley
Produced by: ToonBox Entertainment & Redrover Co. Ltd.
Starring: Will Arnett, Maya Rudolph, Bobby Cannavale & Bobby Moynihan
Read the movie title again and tell me, honestly, if you think this is going to be good. The very idea of this movie tells me it shouldn’t be good, it’s a sequel to the critically panned The Nut Job and just the title alone screams ‘Direct to DVD 90’s Disney Sequel’. That’s why it shocked me that I actually enjoyed myself during this movie. It’s not the best, but it’s not bad and that idea is so shocking to me.
The story picks up shortly after the original with the park animals living in the basement of a nut shop where they’ve found a lifetime supply of food and therefore no longer need to scrounge for food. Surly (Played by Will Arnett) swears that nothing can go wrong and is happy to just live this new decadent life with his friends when, suddenly, the nut shop explodes and the animals are forced back into the park lifestyle. That’s made less easy for them because the Mayor (Played by Bobby Moynihan) want’s to bulldoze the park and replace it with an amusement park. So the animals must band together in order to stop the evil mayor and get their home back, learning to be self-sufficient in the process… OK so the plots not that great, I never said this movie was anything above good.
The performances by the main cast are all pretty serviceable, they’re the exact performances you expect. You see Will Arnett’s name and you expect the gruff voice he’s never changed for any part and that’s what you get. You see Jackie Chan’s name and you expect the wise elder voice and that’s what you get. What you expect out of this cast is what they deliver, there’s no real surprises or standouts in terms of performance with the possible exception of Isabela Moner as Heather, the Mayor’s daughter. Isabela went way up in my estimation of her as a performer since last time I saw her in a movie it was Transformers 5, and my hatred of everything in that movie is well documented. In this movie though, Isabela is the one who brought me the most joy with her impressive performance where she creates this cross between Elmyra from Tiny Toon Adventures and Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and it’s just amazing. It could just be a performance made up of screamed lines, but she genuinely finds a way to fill those lines with an impish delight at being evil. Bobby Moynahan does that too but Isabela is way better at it. They’re good villains, which is handy because the heroes of this movie are less than impressive. Will Arnett is just not putting his all in this one, Katherine Heigl is there just to be the voice of reason and little else (Except one really good “This is not a musical” joke). Everyone is phoning it in, except the villains who went for broke and THANK YOU FOR DOING THAT!
The actors are not helped by a scattershot script that goes between cliche children’s movie and genuinely funny. There are moments in this film that elicit a good laugh, the aforementioned joke about this not being a musical is one such moment, the mayor literally having the licence plate that literally says “Embezzled”, there are some clever moments here that could’ve really made this film a lot better but they’re weighed down by every cliche you could imagine. The plot layout just doesn’t work, it’s all over the place going between saving the park, then rescuing someone, then maybe saving the park again but first we have to go off and deal with this other thing and there’s the “Someone might die” culdesac… it lacks focus and could’ve been a lot funnier had they leaned more into the elements that made fun of the movie itself. Scenes, where characters are pointing out the absurdity of everything, are the best bits, this film excels when it has fun with itself but it’s so afraid to cross the line that it never stays there for long.
This film does have some really nice slapstick animation, there’s a lot of the time where the joke is just “Main character gets hit in the head more times than a footballer” but they sell them, the bright colourful animation works well with this style of comedy and the designs are astoundingly adorable. That being said, I have problems with the fact that they don’t embrace the colour palette they could’ve had. Surly is a purple squirrel, he’s the only one of the main animals that has a non-normal colour, why? Visually it’d be more interesting if they were all different colours, it’d make it easier to tell them apart and help make the visuals even better. That being said though, the animators created some beautiful shot and deserve limitless praise. They are the true stars of this movie because if they had a much better script to work with, this could’ve been something special. The visuals alone are worthy of the price of admission.
This is obviously a film meant for kids, it’s a film made to be bright and colourful and amuse the little ones for a few hours and fortunately, it’s going to do that just fine. It’s not going to be detrimental to them like The Emoji Movie was, it’s not going to bore them like Diary of a Wimpy Kid might’ve, it’s going to entertain them and it’s going to be just fine for them to go see. The parents might want to go see something else after (The Post is still out, go see that after your kids have seen this), but you won’t sit in the cinema-hating the time you spent there.