All the hastily sketched characters in Peter Lepeniotis’ 1950s-set computer-animated adventure go nuts at some point during the poorly paced proceedings.
A money-grabbing ex-con goes gaga at the sight of rats, a pet pug is driven barking mad by her owner’s repeated use of a silver dog whistle, a girl scout whoops with maniacal glee as a runaway food cart careens into oncoming traffic, and an army of woodland critters loosen their tenuous grasp on civility when they stumble upon a horde of cashews, pistachios, macadamias and walnuts.
Protagonists of the two-legged and four-legged persuasions in The Nut Job might be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed but most of Lepeniotis and co-writer Lorne Cameron’s script feels tired.
The narrative is devoid of fluidity, most of the animals don’t exist beyond a single personality trait and there’s an absence of jeopardy during a showpiece bank heist.
References to a certain foodstuff are sprinkled liberally throughout the dialogue – “We found it: the Lost City of Nutlantis!” – so any parents who wake suddenly from a sneaky power-nap in the dark are soon reminded where they are.
Vocal performances raise a smile, but little more. Neeson uses his trademark growl to lend an air of menace to the dictatorial raccoon, but the pickings are slim here.