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Review: The Nut Job

We're a fan of nuts


By far the oddest thing about The Nut Job happens as the credits roll: the whole digital cast erupt into a seemingly impromptu dance of Gagham Style, replete with a CGI PSY throwing dynamite around, dragging everyone, misty-eyed, to that bizarre summer of 2012 when we all did dancefloor horsey-trotting and shouted at women's backsides. Then you discover that almost the whole film staff are Korean, so maybe now a law has been passed there that any film from the country has to include their biggest export within it somehow, no matter how forced.

I imagine the Korean location was more of director Peter Lepeniotis's drive to get this film done by any means necessary; he has been working on Surly the Squirrel shorts and animations since 2005 - and now he’s finally front and centre in his own feature film.

So who is Surly? Really the Dickensian name should give it all away. He’s a sarcastic squirrel who’s out for himself - a tough nut to crack, if you will - who’s only friend is a little rat called Buddy who won’t leave him alone, hugs him at every opportunity and stares at him when he sleeps. Even the press release has the word ‘brother’ in ironic speech marks, so draw your own conclusions there.

All is well in Surly and Buddy’s world until they fall foul of a group of park animals trying to survive for the winter. And this is one of the film’s strong points: the overall story of betrayal, friendship and redemption is fun and cleverly played. There’s also a nice double-narrative involving the animals planning a raid on a nut store while the ne’er-do-well nut owners are planning to raid a bank over the road, striking the same plot points satisfactorily on both strands at the same time.

The film’s other strength is the design is sumptuous, seemingly permanently set in a 1950s New York autumnal sunset. And the digital cast are just so damn FLUFFY, which is completely enhanced by the 3D. You just want to reach out and cuddle Surly with the same enthusiasm his 'brother' employs.

A pleasant film and visually gorgeous, the script could have be benefitted from one more pass to nail that kid/adult crossover market. As it is, it's an enjoyably retro film that kids will adore.

GT gives it: 3/5

Words: Lee Binding

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