Friday, April 18, 2014

The Nut Job Blu-ray Review

Surly (Will Arnett) is a mischievous squirrel with a mission: to find the tastiest nuts for winter. When he discovers a whole store filled with his favorite food, he plans a heist of nutrageous proportions. But the place turns out to be owned by ruthless bank robbers so it’s up to Surly and his furry friends to stop the nearby bank heist and save the town. The Nut Job arrived on Blu-ray 3D and Blu-ray Combo Pack including Blu-ray, DVD, & Digital HD with UltraViolet as well as On Demand on April 15, 2014, from Universal Studios Home Entertainment. 
Film (3 out of 5 stars)
When you are a parent, sometimes in the pursuit of taking your child to the movies you get to see some good family movies (The Lego Movie) and some that you want to avoid at all costs (Pokemon). In the case of The Nut Job, it squarely falls in the middle between the two as it has a lot going for it, a game and talented voice cast as well as some good animation, but it's hampered by a formulaic script that doesn't seem to know which audience it wants to target. There seems to be themes geared for older audiences, but at the same it shamelessly panders to young children with its litany of bathroom humor gags.

Even the film's central character Surly Squirrel (Will Arnett) feels like the writers weren't sure how far his misanthropy should go since during most of the movie he's a fairly unlikeable lead. It's amazing that any of the other animals in the park have anything to do with him, or that he actually has a best friend named Buddy (Robert Tinkler) that's willing to put up with him (even if it's a rat). It also doesn't help that Surly's selfishness puts him at odds with the rest of the park's denizens who are facing a food shortage. The self proclaimed leader of the park Racoon (Liam Neeson) decides to send two squirrels, Andie (Katherine Heigl) and the "hero" of the park, Grayson (Brendan Fraser), in search of food, they are thwarted by Surly and buddy as both groups attempt to rob the same peanut cart of its nuts.

Neither group realize that the peanut cart is just a front for some thugs named Lucky (Scott Yaphe) and Fingers (James Rankin) who get distracted by an young girl who complained to a nearby cop about their lousy customer service. Though the humans may be distracted, their dog Precious (Maya Rudolph) does her best to stop the squirrels from stealing the cart. Although the squirrels escape, Surly's greed ends up making the cart crash into the park's community tree which causes the cart, the tree, and all of the shared food hidden in the tree to blow up. Now faced with an even more serious food shortage, Surly is banished from the park for life and sent to survive on the city streets along with Buddy who joins his friend in exile out of loyalty.

After escaping some wild rats, the two discover a nut shop that's filled with enough food inside to keep them feed for years. They soon discover that the store is the main hideout for the same criminals that had the peanut cart, since they find both Lucky and Fingers and other thug named Knuckles, as well as their boss Percy "King" Dimplewade (Stephen Lang) who has recently gotten out of jail. The criminals plan on robbing the bank next door while Surly plans on robbing them. 

Those plans get complicated when Andie and Grayson re-enter the picture with the same goal. It also doesn't help that Precious also happens to be the guard dog for the store and can only be stopped through the use of a dog whistle that Lucky has. The only way that the animals can succeed in stealing the nuts is to work together, but that's hard when no one trusts each other. It also doesn't help when there's a shadowy figure willing to sabotage the whole plan if need be to maintain their control over the park.

The Nut Job is a fairly enjoyable movie even if it's really predictable. When you've got actors like Will Arnett and Liam Neeson, you can count on the fact that they will elevate the material more than it deserves. The animation is also for the most part very good which helps also and it helps distinguish itself apart from a bunch of cheap and quick animated films that are churned out non-stop. My six year old son enjoyed the film so it obviously works for its main audience, but if more time had been spent on the script and characters, this movie could have been even more enjoyable for everyone.
Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
This 1080p (1.85:1) transfer is really good but it doesn't reach the heights of perfection that Disney and Pixar's releases emjoy. There's a lot of nice detail present and the colors look accurate and bright, but the transfer has a couple of minor issues like banding and some aliasing but those are pretty minor. The black levels are suitably dark and inky and there's no issues of noise to speak of. Overall, this is an impressive transfer that fans will enjoy.
Audio (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The Nut Job's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is decent but not as good as the film's video quality. The dialogue is clear and the LFE channel delivers the action when called upon. The rear channels offer some nice ambience and decent directionality but it's not as involving as it could have been. The mix improves during the more action heavy scenes but the rest of the film sounds more flat. All in all, this is a decent lossless mix that does the job but little more.
Extras (2 out of 5 stars)
There's not very many special features included here and the ones that are included are generally very short. The only good news is that they are in high definition.
  • Animated Shorts - Two shorts are included that don't involve the movie's cast. The first one is: "Surly Squirrel," the original short from director Peter Lepeniotis that  was the inspiration for the film, and the second one is called "Nuts & Robbers," which is a lot more polished than the first one. 
  • Deleted Scenes - We get the usual assortment of deleted and extended scenes.
  • Storyboards - A look at some storyboards for the film that lasts about three minutes. 
  • The Great Nut Heist - A two minute fluff piece that is more of a promo than featurette. 
  • End Credits Sequence - This is the final end credit music number without the credits. 
Summary (3 out of 5 stars)
The Nut Job is a decent family film but it's not overly ambitious and the script could have been better and less formulaic. The animation is pretty good and the cast is very good in their roles and the film did well enough to generate a sequel that's in the works now. Hopefully, the next one will be even better! As far as the Blu-ray goes, it offers excellent video quality and the audio is also pretty good. The extras are disappointing but at least there's some included. Young children are pretty much guaranteed to enjoy this movie but parents will most likely wish that it had more to offer them like Pixar movies do.

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