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Surly and his friends, Buddy, Andie, and Precious, discover that the mayor of Oakton City is cracking one big hustle to build a giant amusement park, which in turn will bulldoze their home. The animals must stop the mayor, his daughter, and a mad animal control officer in order to take back the city park.
It is strange that Nut Job 2's largest problems pile up so high that they inadvertently become its biggest asset? The movie is clunky, thematically dubious and stiflingly unfunny but it comes at you at such a constant pace that its hour and a half run time feels like a Band-Aid is being unceremoniously ripped off. It's a bad flick, that's for sure, but considering the taste of The Emoji Movie is still corroding in my mouth, The Nut Job 2 does feel like a bit of a palette cleanser.
The film follows our posse of park dwelling critters just after their success in the first film made them the sole owners of a corner nut shop. After a sudden explosion leaves them without a food supply, Surly Squirrel (Arnett) the abrasive leader of the group tries other get-fat-quick schemes to avoid going back to scrounging for nuts in the park. Scrounging however may not be an option either. While Surly tries and fails to gather food for the group, the city Mayor (Moynihan) hatches plans for a new development at the park, taking away what little the animals have left.
Nutty by Nature doesn't solve the myriad of problems from the first movie and instead makes them worse. Surly is still a selfish, proud, small-minded, ungrateful lead that never really learns anything substantial or gets his just desserts (aside from pratfalling on a couple of mailboxes). The way he goes about solving problems and honoring his posse's undying loyalty feels almost Angry Bird (2016) level in the way it inverts positive messaging and insults its audience.
The largest victim of Surly's machinations is fellow squirrel Andie (Heigl), whose maxims of "Hard work always pays off," and "There are no shortcuts," comes across as a nagging mother telling you to eat your vegetables. Surly proves not just dismissive but openly hostile to her concerns and she never gets an "I told you so moment" to offset his vitriol. Rather the movie sidesteps Andie and anyone with an actual worthwhile point to concentrate on zany hijinks and the dubious motives of our supposed heroes and villains.
For what it's worth the villains of this mess are objectively worse than its heroes. The Mayor is greedier and infinitely more self-serving than Surly is. He's also so broadly drawn and obnoxious, audiences liable to think the character was created by a six-year-old tasked with making a new Captain Planet (1990-1996) villain. Then there's the Mayor's petulant daughter (Moner) who is basically Darla from Finding Nemo (2003) with a fetish for animal cruelty. At one point a character says, "So this is what they mean when they say 'there were warning signs'." It's funny because it's true.
There are other small smidgens of this movie worth a chuckle, including the late addition of Jackie Chan to the cast, but there's nothing really substantial enough to warrant a watch. If you're really so inclined to watch this movie with your kids, try going out to the park instead. Your kids will probably get the same uncomfortable feeling of adrenaline and nausea from spinning in circles real fast. Just don't lap up the remains afterwards.
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