Making the Grades
You can expect plenty of “nut” jokes in this script. Thankfully most of them don’t refer to male anatomy. There’s also loads of cartoon violence, including explosions, punching, smashing and even guns that are fired at the forest critters. But for the eight and older crowd who can keep up with the complexities of the script and the huge cast, The Nut Job is a mildly entertaining diversion.
At the center of the story is Surly (voice by Will Arnett), a testy tree squirrel who lives up to his moniker. He only thinks about himself—particularly when it comes to food. He even mistreats Buddy (voice by Robert Tinkler), a scrawny rat that is the only animal willing to put up with the cantankerous rodent.
The opening scenes of the story feel like something straight out of A Bug’s Life with the city park animals scrounging for enough nuts and scrapes to get them through the winter. Their leader Raccoon (voice by Liam Neeson) oversees the storage of the nuts inside a huge oak tree. When Surly refuses to help add to the stash and mistakenly sends their storage up in flames, he is banished from the park and forced to live on the mean city streets. There he’s chased by a pack of scummy sewer rats, almost run over in traffic and kicked by a irate pedestrian all within the first few minutes of landing in the city. But just when things start to look really bad, he stumbles upon a gold mine—Maury’s Nut Store. Unfortunately the establishment is owned by a mafia boss using it as a front to rob a bank. However that doesn’t stop Surly from planning his own heist.
Surly’s attempts to redeem himself and earn his way back into the good graces of his friends could have been enough storyline for this animation that is clearly aimed at a young audience. But the scriptwriters choose to add an additional plot line that turns the forest creatures against one another and makes it hard to know who to trust.
All these twists make it difficult for young children to follow, and even a few adults will likely feel like they’re being subjected to a big screen version of the shell game. While the animation and 3D effects will hold your attention, at least for a while, some families may choose to wait until The Nut Job hits home video.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Nut Job.
How does Surly treat others? Why is he banished from the park without a trial? Why does Buddy continue to stick around?
What do the animals do to prepare for winter? What things do you do, if any, to prepare for winter?
What characters make changes in this story? Why does Surly choose to not take credit for saving the animals? How does he help them?