REVIEW / ANIMATION
THE NUT JOB 2: NUTTY BY NATURE
99 minutes/Opens tomorrow/2.5/5 stars
The story: Surly (voiced by Will Arnett) the squirrel and his vermin buddies are living the good life with a lifetime supply of food at an abandoned nut store. After a boiler explosion roasts their nuts, the gang reluctantly return to their natural habitat of Liberty Park. A subsistence diet proves to be the least of their problems, when unscrupulous Mayor Muldoon (voiced by Bobby Moynihan) eyes their home as the site for a lucrative amusement park.
The Nut Job (2014) was a tough nut to crack. It was pummelled by critics, but grossed more than US$120 million (S$162.7 million) worldwide, making almost three times its US$42.8 million budget.
While the first movie was a decent heist caper, this sequel does the "animals outwitting dumb/evil humans" trope that has been done before in other animated flicks such as Open Season (2006) and Over The Hedge (2006).
I would imagine the late novelist and eco-activist Edward Abbey would be proud, as the spiritual (and furry) successors of his Monkey Wrench Gang go to town assailing the demolition workers and sabotaging their machines.
Director and co-writer Cal Brunker - who was a storyboard artist on last year's The Secret Life Of Pets - piles on one frenzied setpiece after another, though the Looney Tunes-inspired mayhem gets tiresome fast.
Arnett, of The Lego Batman Movie (2017) fame, is capable of great voicework, but he does not have much to work with here as the aptly named curmudgeon Surly.
There is some attempt at character development with his pals - Andie (Katherine Heigl), a fellow squirrel who drops chestnuts like "there are no shortcuts in life" and disapproves of Surly's dishonourable methods of foraging, and Buddy, a mute rat he has known since childhood.
But any quiet introspection or stab of pathos is quickly brushed aside for another explosion or chase sequence.
There are two bright spots.
One is Maya Rudolph - last heard in this year's The Emoji Movie - returning as the bug-eyed, affable pug Precious. She has caught the eye of French bulldog Frankie (Bobby Cannavale) and her reactions to his awkward advances and his sadistic girl owner make for some of the film's funniest moments.
The other is Jackie Chan. He voices a featherweight mouse and martial-arts master named Mr Feng (pronounced "fang"), who goes berserk whenever anyone calls him cute.
He gets as much screentime as his size, but an ingenious fight scene involving him and his brethren in an exterminator suit more than makes up for it.
In a nutshell, this crowd-pleaser has some bite, but families craving something more filling should hunt elsewhere.