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The Nut Job - Parent Movie Review

About.com Rating 2.5 Star Rating


The Nut Job
Photo © Open Road Films

MPAA Rating: PG, for mild action and rude humor
Genre: Animated/comedy
Guide age recommendation: 5+
Runtime: 86 minutes
Starring: Liam Neeson, Katherine Heigl, Will Arnett
Release Date: January 17, 2014

The Nut Job - Overview

Surly the squirrel (voiced by Will Arnett) is a rogue and an outsider at the city park where he lives. He's got a bit of an anti-authority streak, and he likes to work alone. He certainly doesn't need anyone, and he's not going to go out of his way for anyone else either, even his best friend Buddy the rat.

Now Andie (voice of Katherine Heigl) is on a completely different level. She respects the authority of the raccoon who  presides over the park, and she's always hard at work for the common good.

When Surly decides to rob from the same nut cart as Andie and the park's resident hero Grayson (voice of Brendan Fraser), things go awry and Surly ends up getting banished from the park. The city streets can be a dangerous place for a squirrel, and Surly misses his home, but when he finds the local nut store, he's sure he's hit the mother load.

Surly determines to pull off the biggest nut heist in history. Unfortunately for him, Andie's desperation to find food for the park's animals leads her to the same place. Surly agrees to work with the park animals and split the haul, but can he be trusted? The whole operation gets pretty complicated, and the park animals find out that good guys and bad guys aren't always what they seem.

The Nut Job - Guide Review for Parents

The Nut Job features colorful animation and a couple of really fun 3D moments -- namely the film's opening sequence as the view pans into the park through the acorn shaped "O" in the movie title, as well as some fabulous 3D scenes inside the big oak tree.

The film also contains interesting characters with great dynamics between different personality types. We have the rogue loner, the "hero" who can't seem to do anything wrong and the do-gooder all coming together in what should have been an engrossing relationship with several fantastic character arcs. Unfortunately, the characters' arcs get lost in what plays out to be a messy, disjointed and by and large uninteresting plot.

Thus, most grownups will likely be highly underwhelmed by the movie. Young kids will probably enjoy the movie for the animation, talking animal characters, potty humor and the hijacking of the pop culture phenomenon Gangnam Style. To keep it interesting for grownups, you could play a game: see how many nut puns you can count throughout the movie.

While the movie is pretty tame as far as language, frightening scenes and sexual content, there is an excess of rude behavior. In fact, Surly the squirrel in the beginning is more than just a rogue loaner, he's downright mean.

With certain incidents that have been reported in the news lately, it was almost disturbing to watch the beginning of the movie as Surly punches a pigeon, knocking him right off of his perch for no reason, and randomly destroys another bird's nest. All of this is played for laughs and I guess to set up Surly's every-man-for-himself character type. But sometimes, Surly goes beyond looking out for himself to being a mean-spirited little dude without a conscience. All of this leads to a bit of a confusing character, and while he does get better, we just don't get those satisfying moments of growth we hope for.

The movie does explore some interesting themes around control and manipulation, the common good, leadership and friendship. But again, the overall story is too weak and disjointed to do the themes real justice.

Still, if you see the movie with the kids, it could lead to some interesting family discussions about socioeconomic principles and how the fictional story could really relate to real life government and events in history. Discuss topics such as leadership and ways in which a leader could effectively lead without using coercion or manipulation, and discuss how leaders have used these methods in the past and what the results of those tactics have been. Also discuss individual vs the common good and reasons why we would want to put the common good ahead of our own needs, or not, in our own families and in the community.


The Nut Job - Content Overview

*May contain spoilers.

  • Violence (High): Violence in The Nut Job  is not large scale or excessive; however, the violence is in some cases personal, mean-spirited and cruel. As mentioned before, Surly punches a pigeon for no reason.  One character tries to sabotage some other characters which results in their almost drowning. One characters tries to kill several other characters to shut them up or get them out of the way. Several scenes involve slapstick violence with animals being tossed around, falling, slamming into things and the like. A tree catches on fire and burns down. Bank robbers fight each other. A man holds a knife and it is implied he is going to kill an animal but the animal escapes.
  • Scary Scenes (Medium): Young children my be frightened by some of the content listed under "violence." Some scenes in which animals are in peril due to the mean bank robbers who want to kill them or due to other animals may be scary or suspenseful for young children. In one scene, a character is thought to have drown after a suspenseful scene which ends in him being swept down a rushing river.
  • Sex/Nudity (Low): Grayson wants Andie to be his girlfriend, but she isn't interested.
  • Drugs and Alcohol (None)
  • Profanity (None)
  • Disrespectful/Imitative Behavior (Extreme): A squirrel hits others and destroys things for no reason. He treats his best friend like garbage and is extremely selfish. Some men plan to rob a bank. An animal uses food to control others. He deceives others in order to retain power. Some animals torture a mole by shining light in his eyes to get him to talk.
  • Sad/Unsettling Scenes (Medium): One character goes missing and another is presumed dead. A character is banished from his home. A tree that is home to many animals and contains their entire food supply is burnt down.
  • Movie Topics Kids Might Have Questions About: What animals in parks and cities eat and how they survive, leadership, control and manipulation, selfishness, robbery, sabotage

*If your kids like The Nut Job, they might also enjoy: Over the Hedge, Open Season, Furry Vengence (live action), G-Force.

**Read about more animated movies in theaters in 2014.


Disclosure: The studio provided a free screening of this movie for review purposes. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.


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