Back in 2005, Peter Lepeniotis made "Surly Squirrel," a 10-minute short that attracted attention on YouTube. Now he's expanded the same basic concept into a full-length 3-D animated feature.
With cold weather quickly approaching, the ever-hungry animals in Oakton City's Liberty Park are facing a severe shortage of nuts after Surly the Squirrel (voiced by Will Arnett) sets fire to the massive oak tree that contains their winter stockpile. Booted out of his home and banished into the big, bustling city, self-centered Surly discovers Maury's Nut Shop. Salivating over the prospect of an unlimited supply of peanuts, cashews, hazelnuts, even peanut brittle, he figures if he can snag the booty from the basement storage area, which he describes as "the lost city of Nutlantis," he'll be back in everyone's good graces. Problem is, some humanoid thieves, who are simultaneously plotting a bank heist, have their sights set on tunneling into the same location, which is guarded by wacky, bug-eyed pug named Precious (voiced by Maya Rudolph).
Meanwhile, two other squirrels, egotistic Grayson (voiced by Brandon Fraser) and ethical Andie (voiced by Katherine Heigl) have been dispatched
to the city to forage for food, while the rest of the park's famished animal kingdom functions under the steadfast dictatorship of Raccoon (voiced by Liam
Neeson) with the help of his lackey Mole (voiced by Jeff Dunham).
Writer/director Peter Lepeniotis was an animator at Disney/Pixar, while co-writer Lorne Cameron worked on Disney's "Brother Bear" and DreamWorks "Over the Hedge." Unfortunately, their dual effort is overly punny, structurally disjointed and ultimately disappointing. Plus, there's a curious resemblance between Surly's silent sidekick Buddy the Rat and Remy from Pixar's far-better "Ratatouille" (2007).
Since the film was financed by Canada and South Korea, the festivities conclude with an animated version of Korea's beloved pop star Psy, singing and dancing "Gangnam Style," as the credits roll.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Nut Job" is a forgettable 4. Riffing on the movie's slogan, "No nuts, no glory," it could have been a lot nuttier.