Have you heard the joke about nuts? The Nut Job will treat you to all of the PG-rated jokes in the book!
Surly (Will Arnett) is a squirrel loner, who destroys the Oakton park’s winter supply of food for all of the animals, and gets voted out of the park. His rat friend, Buddy (Robert Tinkler), willingly goes with him, and soon, he’s joined (less willingly) by another squirrel named Andie (Katherine Heigl), as he plots to break into a nut shop.
What Surly doesn’t know is that the nut shop is actually the launching pad for a human gang’s plot to break into the bank next door and steal all of the money. So, while the animals are scheming to relieve the nut shop of all of its nuts, the humans are tunneling into the bank. Off and on, the animals’ plan negates the human plan, even while the humans’ pet, Precious the pug (Maya Rudolph), joins the animals in their plot. It’s the hijinks of an animal cartoon (Over the Hedge comes to mind), mixed with a poorly planned heist movie (The Ladykillers?), that develops a heart along the way.
Surly wants NOTHING to do with the other animals; he thinks his whole life is just about him. He causes the destruction of the food supply by his own selfishness, and he doesn’t seem to understand what friendship (even with Buddy) looks like. But somewhere along the way, thanks to the altruism of the others, he recognizes what good and evil are, what friendship should look like, and what participation in a ‘real community’ looks like.
Along the way, we realize that Surly is actually a better squirrel, er, person, than we thought he was, while some of the other animals are not what they’re cracked up to be. But there’s a Surly versus Grayson (Brendan Fraser) thread throughout where we see that what people think about the squirrels isn’t necessarily what they really are. In Matthew 21:28-32, Jesus tells a parable about two sons: one says he will help his father and doesn’t, while the other grumbles and says he won’t but he does. Surly and Grayson are a lot like that, begging us to recognize that ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover,’ and that people can actually change.
Overall, The Nut Job wasn’t as funny as I’d hoped with Arnett leading the way, but it had a bigger heart.