Sometimes the best way to promote positive themes concerning the environment, and the protection of nature – is through the prism of a family adventure movie, taking real life themes and making them accessible, in a playful, almost irreverent manner. Whether than be Wall-E or The Lorax – it’s a successful means of tapping in to a young crowd and projecting important lessons, albeit dressed up in rather fantastical attire. That’s the case for The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature, as we cast our eye over the selfish money-makers in society, those ruining the environment for personal, financial gain – in this instance focusing in on a crazed politician destroying the local park simply as it brings in so little money.
Following on from the surprisingly good original movie, Cal Brunker’s endeavour reconnects us with Surly (Will Arnett), a squirrel who is sitting on a fortune – of nuts. The local nut shop has closed down, and in the basement is all of the unsold goods, keeping the local wildlife happy as they, quite literally, swim in peanuts. But his love interest Andie (Katherine Heigl) feels this easy access to food is stopping the animals from using their inherent instincts, taking away the fun of hunting for their next meal. She soon gets her wish too, as the nut store is burnt down – and suddenly the squirrels and groundhogs and mice must all live off the land yet again. Except their land (the city park) is in jeopardy, for the Mayor (Bobby Moynihan) intends of turning their home into an amusement park, leaving these small, furry individuals as the only ones who can put a stop to these plans, and save their home.
While preaching a positive message, it’s been presented in an all too formulaic manner, as a film that abides, albeit affectionately, to the tropes and beats of the genre in a jarring fashion. Every narrative device you can spot a mile off, while there are some characters – such as the Mayor’s nightmare daughter, who is an evident influence from Finding Nemo and the character of Darla, even identical in the way the character has been drawn. The other characters are not quite strong enough either, and while Surly makes for a reliable protagonist, a hero we can invest in, the supporting cast doesn’t have enough about them, with the film in desperate need of more quirky, novelty inclusions – ala the Minions, instead leaving a film that is all too forgettable, without that comedic flair we require for moments of light relief.
Though a decent enough sequel, The Nut Job 2 does lack that sense of adventure from the preceding endeavour, which masqueraded as a fun family movie, but was a great little heist caper at its core. Instead the franchise is playing it a little safe with this offering, somewhat generic in its execution, leaving us with very little desire to indulge in a third.
The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature is released on August 11th.