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Family Movie Review: The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature (PG)

Kernel Rating (out of 5): whole popcorn kernalhalf popcorn kernal (1.5 out of 5)

MPAA Rating: PG       Length: 91 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 7+. This sequel to ‘The Nut Job’ has mostly the same comedic point of view as its predecessor, with most of its humor coming from characters being harmed, being put in danger, or just being mean to each other. Name-calling, bullying, and corrupt, selfish human children and adults; a few romantic subplots, flirting, and a few sexually themed jokes; and some gross bathroom humor, like dogs who won’t say no to exuberantly licking uninterested animals and a recurring joke with dogs vomiting up food and eating it again. Some explosions, a tornado, some characters threaten each other, and some physical fighting.

‘The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature’ is another lackluster summer offering for young viewers, a sequel that does very little different from its similarly irritating predecessor. The jokes are still mean-spirited and the animation uninspired.

By Roxana Hadadi

TheNutJob2NuttyByNature ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReview“The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature” isn’t as bad as July’s “The Emoji Movie,” but it’s not much better, either. This summer’s cinematic offerings for children have taken a downturn in the past few weeks, and “The Nut Job 2” is another low point—an infrequently funny, barely unique sequel that relies on mean-spirited humor to pass the time.

“Nutty by Nature” picks up some time after 2014’s “The Nut Job,” in which purple squirrel Surly (voiced by Will Arnett, of “The LEGO Batman Movie”) banded together his fellow animals, including love interest Andie (voiced by Katherine Heigl, of “Jenny’s Wedding”), best friend and rat Buddy (voiced by Robert Tinkler), groundhogs, and moles and led them in protecting their home, Liberty Park. When “Nutty by Nature” begins, they seem to be living the good life, with a seemingly never-ending supply of nuts in the basement of a store that has recently gone out of business and a new unity in their community.

The only naysayer is Andie, who is disgusted by their gluttony (“This is not what animals do” she admonishes) and who wants the animals to go back to saving, scrounging, and acting more like wild things than people. And she gets what she wants, sort of, when the nut shop accidentally explodes and the animals have to return to nature—but almost immediately after, Oakton City’s corrupt mayor (voiced by Bobby Moynihan, of “The Secret Life of Pets”) announces plans to destroy their home and replace it with an amusement park. “I’ve got bigger plans than trees,” he smirks, and in fact his Libertyland Park would be a tacky, dangerous way to make the bribe-happy elected official even more money.

“What are we gonna do, Surly?” everyone asks, and so “Nutty by Nature” follows Surly’s increasingly desperate plans to keep everyone alive and happy in Liberty Park—and to finally convince Andie that he’s worthy of her affection. Hijinks between the animals and the evil exterminators, haughty townspeople, and the mayor and his bratty, sociopathic daughter ensue, with a cameo from a city mouse, Mr. Feng (voiced by Jackie Chan, of “Kung Fu Panda 3”), who leads an army of martial-arts-trained mice and who can’t stand being called “cute.”

Very little of “Nutty by Nature” could be called genuinely amusing or charming; instead, the script relies on mean-spirited humor that often mocks characters, puts them in dangerous situations, or is honestly just rude. Surly is positioned as anti-hero, but really he’s just a jerk, belittling his love interest, joining the other animals in mocking her genuine concern and her earnestness, and defaulting to making fun of other characters every chance he gets. To make him more likable in comparison, the film ramps up the evil of its human characters, making the mayor’s daughter an intolerable, hedonistic child and the exterminators goonish and violent, but that just makes the film even more dour.

There is no joy in this thing, no lightness. The 91 minutes feel oppressively longer. And that 3D upcharge isn’t worth it—only utilized a few times in the film, for things like popcorn popping in an explosion and construction vehicles racing through a park.

There are a few scenes that feel familiar but are still amusing, like Surly struggling to keep up with the fast-paced nature of city life (legitimate laughs are earned when cops seem to chase Surly and Buddy after they steal from a doughnut shop, and when pigeons eat some spilled popcorn before Surly and Buddy do), and Chan commits to Mr. Feng even if the character doesn’t seem to quite fit with the rest of the narrative. But overall, “The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature” feels cynical and methodical, and could be summed up entirely by Surly sneering to Andie about the events of the first film, “I’m happy to say I didn’t learn a thing.” The same goes for “Nutty by Nature,” too.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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