There are moments Nut Job is capably calling to Warner Bros.’ vintage rambunctiousness, spry with its physical humor and goofy explosiveness. Looney Tunes would welcome the lot of Surly Squirrel amongst their ranks – if not his friends.
Elsewhere, this Universal feature is clamped down in such original naming schemes as “Raccoon” who is… a raccoon. Then there’s Mole who, well, he’s a mole. Nut Job seems to come from a screenwriter who let their six year old point at character designs and mouth off their immediate reactions. Even Surly suits Will Arnett’s *ahem* “surly” rodent.
To Nut Job’s credit and despite pitiful naming nomenclature, herein lies a disposable animated feature as park-born animals scatter themselves in search of wintertime feasts. Torrents of fart jokes and obvious gags (Mole is blind?!) later, Nut Job’s peppy 70 or so minutes manages to entertain, with enough positive messaging to break it from the labeling of total throwaway.
Despite release in 2014, the animated piece is propped up on pop culture groaners such as “Gangnam Style,” a year or more after the YouTube video stopped receiving traffic. Surly’s isolationist posture against this big city crew of mammals takes place in a characterized gangster picture with the ’30s and ’40s cinematic tokens in tow. Robbers take up residence inside of a nut shop across from their bank heist, a bit of convenient plotting and enough for this tale to find a narrative home to work from.
Nut Job is at its best while it displays a manic energy, rarely pacified for more than 10 minute spans. Corny dynamite gags and dog people humor proves refreshing, throwbacks which despite the contrast to internet-era zingers, toss this inoffensive animation into a pile of limited future degradation. Except Gangnam Style. Seriously.
This a difficult film to hate despite menial animation power and often startling resemblance to 2006’s Over the Hedge. Characters fall into an abyss of design safety and celebrity voices are ultimately indifferent to the level of quality. Then, things explode and this pack of vermin start screaming at the absurdity of it all, leveling things out to a non-memorable if peppy piece of mindless enjoyment.
It’s visible that Nut Job is lower tier, hit with an aliasing bug from its lower resolution work if to nominal effect. Whiskers and certain lines on city buildings break up with virtual camera pans, distracting to those sensitive to the effects.
Fur effects and other texture work is behind major productions by a few years, if still well defined on disc. Shots of the park in fall display measurable clarity in addition to the flurry of color utilization. Tree bark, leaves, and grass are rendered flawlessly. Dazzling contrast has much of piece to itself as black levels are in low demand.
While computer animation is traditionally something to fawn over on the format, there are bumps to Nut Job’s glory, a few brushes with imprecision which remove it from high-end contention. It’s serviceable work while veterans of the format will scoff at anything short of brilliance. That’s where Universal’s disc falls, saturated and pure to grab kids while keeping them occupied. Videophiles can huff in a corner at their discontent.
Dynamite sends flames into the stereos and surrounds, but misses the LFE channel throughout this DTS-HD mix. No oomph is apparent in this otherwise pleasing audio presentation.
But, on the side, Nut Job is doing well enough for itself with tracking dialog into the centers and sprucing up of the surrounds to enhance mayhem. An early cart chase sends fire and ejecting propane into each channel for a dazzling bit of careful placement. Smooth separation counters some nominal spacing; while Nut Job reaches for stereos, it does not stretch deeply. Still, it’s competent and lively.
Deleted scenes are padded with footage from the film for context, while deleted content is usually a quick snippet. Storyboards run down a few scenes in their earliest form, and Great Nut Heist is a dull promo. Two animated shorts appear to be the genesis of the concept, using animation which would have been outdated in 1996 (not an exaggeration). Oddly, the end credits are offered as a bonus despite a chapter being available for direct access as well.
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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.