The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature is part of My Summer of Summer Movies, in which I am attempting to see and review every movie that opens (in Chicago) between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Read all about this ill-advised plan here.
Perhaps the problem is that I never saw The Nut Job (2014), and am thus woefully ignorant of the rich back story, complicated inter-character relationships, and powerfully pertinent themes that undoubtedly inform this sequel.
Perhaps the problem is that I am neither a sub-literate, hyper-active, attention-deficient child, nor the parent of one.
Perhaps the problem is that no one, in my 47 years on Earth, has ever thought to refer to me as "nutty by nature."
Or perhaps the fault, dear readers, lies not with myself, but with this disposable hack job of a film. Either way, I must confess, My Summer of Summer Movies experiment approached its breaking point at some point (fairly early) during my viewing of The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature.
Let us dispense, first, with a summary of the labyrinthine plot. Assorted animals—led (for some reason) by the (inexplicably purple) squirrel Surly (the always dislikable Will Arnett)—are living the high life in a nut shop as the film begins. (I assume their apparent ownership of the nut shop was the culmination of shenanigans in the previous film, but there is a limit to the amount of preparation I am willing to do.) Alas, the nut shop conveniently explodes about five minutes into the film, forcing the now fat and complacent critters to return to nature and fend for themselves in nearby Liberty Park. However, their new home is threatened by the town's venal Mayor (Bobby Moynihan)—his vanity plate reads "MBEZLIN"—who wants to build an amusement park. The animals go to war against the construction project, and (alleged) hilarity ensues.
Here are, literally, all the nice things I can think of to say about The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature. The computer animation is competent, albeit uninspired. There is a slim but almost sweet love-story sub-plot between the pug Precious (Maya Rudolph) and a dim-witted but good-hearted dog (Bobby Cannavale) owned by the Mayor's evil, Veruca-Saltlike daughter (Isabela Moner).
And…no, sorry, that's it. Everything else is pretty bad. Even leaving aside any expectations of meaning or message—in the final voice-over, Surly admits to not having learned a thing—The Nut Job 2 is disposable, direct-to-DVD-level garbage. The animated chaos that is the film's only reason for existing is staggeringly unimaginative, surprisingly violent, and—worst of all—not remotely funny. (Parents of children in need of entertainment, I urge you to seek out Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, or Despicable Me 3. Do not subject your children to this. In fact, the story, action, and dialogue would all be better if you took the kids to an actual park to watch actual squirrels.)
This was my second experience, in as many weeks, of sitting in a theater surrounded by small children who are noticeably not laughing at something ostensibly catered to their senses of humor. It is a sad and weirdly chilling sensation, but it does make me cautiously optimistic for this generation's potential as cinematic connoisseurs. These kids—even the ones still sitting in their own—know shit when they see it.