Rodents rise up in animated trifle ‘Nut Job 2’

If nothing else, “The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature” is the beneficiary of good timing, as many will consider it not as bad as the last animated movie on the schedule, the painfully terrible “The Emoji Movie.”

In fact, “The Nut Job 2” is not only better than “The Emoji Movie” — if it were worse, I’d be removing my eyeballs with a melon baller — but a slight improvement on its forgettable predecessor from 2014.

The first “Nut Job” focused on Surly Squirrel (voiced by Will Arnett), a loner squirrel scrounging for food in Liberty Park in downtown Oakton. Surly hit the jackpot when he discovered an abandoned nut shop across the street from the park and overcame a dictatorial rodent to become the reluctant leader of the park’s animal population.

The new installment starts with Surly and his animal friends living it up in the nut shop — all except lady squirrel Andie (voiced by Katherine Heigl), who cautions against the temptations of easy living. Andie’s warnings come true when the animals’ laziness leads to the nut shop going up in flames and everyone having to return to the drudgery of gathering and storing nuts in the park.

Soon, a larger threat looms. Oakton’s corrupt mayor, Percival J. Muldoon (voiced by departing “Saturday Night Live” cast member Bobby Moynihan), has a scheme to turn Liberty Park into a profitmaking theme park — and the first step is to bring in the bulldozers and destroy the animals’ homes.

While the animals have to dodge an obsessed exterminator (voiced by Peter Stormare), Surly and his mute rat sidekick, Buddy, sneak into Muldoon’s townhouse — where Muldoon’s spoiled daughter, Heather (voiced by Isabela Moner, from the last “Transformers” movie), has captured the park’s pug, Precious (voiced by Maya Rudolph), to be a companion to her pet dog, Frankie (voiced by Bobby Cannavale).

In Oakton’s Chinatown, Surly and Buddy also encounter an army of deceptively cute mice, all trained in the martial arts by their leader, Mr. Feng (voiced by Jackie Chan). This meeting proves fortuitous in the movie’s finale, a showdown between animals and humans in Muldoon’s slapdash theme park.

Director Cal Brunker and co-writer Bob Barlen (who worked together on 2013’s “Escape From Planet Earth”) create a nice comic ensemble of characters, led by the antihero Surly and the good-hearted Andie. The gags are often predictable, but they fly by effortlessly during the well-paced action segments.

“The Nut Job 2” is a light, throwaway little movie, and thankfully aspires to be nothing more. It certainly doesn’t compete in Pixar’s league, as animation goes — but it doesn’t drop to the depths of those creepy little emoji, either.

* * 1/2<br>’The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature’<br>Squirrels and other animals fight to keep their park out of a corrupt mayor’s clutches, in this not-so-awful animated movie.<br>Where • Theaters everywhere.<br>When • Opens Friday, Aug. 11<br>Rating • PG for some action and rude humor.<br>Running time • 91 minutes.

from The Salt Lake Tribune http://www.sltrib.com/artsliving/movies/2017/08/10/rodents-rise-up-in-animated-trifle-nut-job-2

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