Perhaps it is the cynic buried deep within me, but I'm pretty sure that the fact of The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature, the useless sequel to a useless movie, is a self-fulfilled prophecy. Of course, as 2014's The Nut Job was an unexpected financial success (given its January release, lack of franchise connection, and generally lacking quality), a sequel was coming, and this is what the shouts from within whatever empty room was inhabited by the previous film's fans hath wrought. Surprisingly enough, this is a screenplay that tries to do much more than one might expect, layering frantic action and silly hijinks with an obvious environmental message. This is not an ideal platform on which to serve such a message.
Theoretically, the movie does a lot to further an ongoing conversation about the protection of the natural world that surrounds us. In this case, what needs to be protected is Liberty Park, the site located within a big city wherein flora and fauna thrive, crucial to the ecosystem that has been forcibly inserted into the middle of the city. The heroes have their hearts in the right place, and the bad man who wants to replace it with a theme park does not. It is a simple idea at the heart of the movie, but in actuality, it's built on a lot of broad strokes and generalizations.
On one hand, perhaps we shouldn't expect anything more. On the other hand, it seems unnecessary to insult the intelligence of children in such a cavalier nature. Those children, who are likely to respond to the film's brightly colored (though not especially dignified) animation and not much else, are smarter than they are given credit for. Adults, meanwhile, will tire of the film's incessant pacing, which barely stops to breathe. Screenwriters Steve Bindley, Bob Barlen, and Cal Brunker (who also directed) have no patience for such luxuries as nuance, but neither do they seem interested in it.
The plot picks up sometime after the end of the previous movie (although who really cares how long it's been?). The Nut Shop, which was closed, is now open for business for Surly (voice of Will Arnett) and his fellow squirrels - plus a mole and a few groundhogs. The basement of the place is overflowing with nuts of all kinds for the animals to eat in the wake of the shop's liquidation, but Andie (voice of Katherine Heigl) yearns for all of them to scrounge for their own food. Meanwhile, Mayor Muldoon (voice of Bobby Moynihan), whose elected position was won through questionable campaign contributions (i.e., bulging suitcases of money that he stashes under his desk), wants to wipe it out in favor of an amusement park that will, like the rest of the city, be profitable for him.
The screenwriters' distrust of intrusive government is clear, but the film's status as a clarion call for resistance is lost amid a movie that has more juvenile concerns. Surly, as in the first movie, is an irrational cad with rage issues, his only minutely relatable aspect being his friendship with the ever-silent Buddy (A flashback to Surly's parents' unknown fate, perhaps to be examined thoroughly in the inevitable third film, is the only scene worth noting here). There are a lot of pratfalls, flat verbal and visual gags (especially one involving vomit), and annoying new characters (such as a martial-artist mouse, voiced by Jackie Chan in a "special appearance" that accomplishes nothing until the finale, and the mayor's daughter, voiced by Isabela Moner, a shrill and unappealing creation). The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature is more of the same, just moved over about a foot on the ground.
Featuring the voices of Will Arnett (Surly), Katherine Heigl (Andie), Maya Rudolph (Precious), Jackie Chan (Mr. Feng), Isabela Moner (Heather), Peter Stormare (Gunther), Bobby Cannavale (Frankie), Bobby Moynihan (The Mayor), Jeff Dunham (Mole), Gabriel Iglesias (Jimmy), Sebastian Maniscalco (Johnny), Tom Kenny (Buddy), Kari Wahlgren (Jamie), and Rob Tinkler (Redline).
Directed by Cal Brunker and written by Brunker, Scott Bindley, and Bob Barlen.
Rated PG (action, rude humor).
Released on August 11, 2017.