[Screen It]


(2017) (voices of Will Arnett, Katherine Heigl) (PG)

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Animated Comedy: A number of animals try to thwart a mayor's greedy plan to turn their city park into an amusement park.
Things are looking good for the animals of Liberty Park, what with squirrel Surly (voice of WILL ARNETT) having acquired access to the basement reserves of a nut shop, thus ensuring plentiful food for one and all. While the likes of Surly's best friend, Buddy the silent rat (noises by TOM KENNY), pug Precious (voice of MAYA RUDOLPH), groundhogs Jimmy (GABRIEL IGLESIAS) and Johnny (JOE PINGUE), Mole (voice of JEFF DUNHAM) and various others enjoy the plentiful spoils of Surly's work, his squirrel counterpart, Andie (voice of KATHERINE HEIGL), isn't as pleased.

She thinks it's both unnatural and a bad idea to rely on that as their food source, and her concerns end up justified when the nut shop ends up destroyed by an accidental explosion. Now the group's leader, Surly is certain more food will be easy to find, but quickly learns that's not the case.

To make matters worse, the city's greedy and corrupt Mayor (voice of BOBBY MOYNIHAN) wants to turn Liberty Park into an amusement park, all to line his own pockets, and his young and bratty daughter, Heather (voice of ISABELA MONER), dog-naps Precious to join her pet pooch, Frankie (voice of BOBBY CANNAVALE).

From that point on, Surly and company try to thwart the mayor's plans and construction efforts, but must not only contend with an animal control worker, Gunther (voice of PETER STORMARE), who's been sent to take care of the animal problem, but also a cute yet formidable mouse, Mr. Feng (JACKIE CHAN), who's moved from the countryside into the city with his army of martial arts trained mice and doesn't like any sort of interlopers coming his way.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
Growing up in the 1960s and '70s, one of my most favorite things to do was get up before everyone else on Saturday morning, make myself cinnamon sugar toast and a glass of chocolate milk, and head down to our basement where I'd sit and eat breakfast a foot or so away from the TV while watching "The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour."

Being an animal lover, I particularly enjoyed watching Bugs outwit Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam and others who wished him harm, albeit in an over-exaggerated, cartoon fashion. Thus, and harkening back to my childhood memories, the storyline of "The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature," would seem to be right up my alley, albeit four decades removed from those sugar-infested viewings of animals besting humans.

Of course, upon hearing that I had seen this film, the jokes started flying about it being a vasectomy comedy (based on the title and associated slang), whether it was painful to watch and if it had me fidgeting in my seat while trying to find a comfortable seating position, what with the subject matter and all.

While expected and decidedly juvenile, I didn't find those jokes that funny, an observation that can be shared with this 90-some minute offering that at least doesn't go down the route of testicular humor. But it does involve some canine eating of vomit that had some viewers at our promo screening guffawing (and others grossed out) and enough frenetic and sometimes frantic action and comedy stylings that one might wish some family planning had occurred regarding the plentiful and sometimes ugly characters on display here.

The offering -- the sequel to the poorly received original film from 2014 that was only moderately successful at the box office -- returns a number of characters from that film, including its unlikable protagonist, Surly (once again voiced by Will Arnett in a less than appealing fashion).

While Bugs Bunny would occasionally wryly ask, "Ain't I a stinker?" he was always fun to watch. Not so this character, which also holds true for his chief nemesis, the mayor (voiced by SNL's Bobby Moynihan) or that man's bratty daughter (Isabela Moner) who seems related to the girl at the dentist's office in "Finding Dory," but without the Pixar charm.

The plot is simple enough. The various critters of Liberty Park have found pay dirt in the abandoned supplies of the nut shop featured in the first film, and gluttony (and cartoon style chaos) reigns there. That is, until the place explodes and the gravy train, so to speak, has left the station.

With Andie (Katherine Heigl) happy that the animals will go back to scrounging for food as nature intended it, Surly -- now the de facto leader of the group -- sets out with his mute rat friend (Tom Kenny) to find some chow. They fail at that, but do encounter a converted city mouse (Jackie Chan) who doesn't like interlopers and uses his martial arts prowess (and his legion of similarly trained mice) to drive them away.

To make matters worse, the city's mayor has deemed their park useless (at least in terms of generating a profit from which he can skim off the top) and thus wants to turn the place into an amusement park, albeit one straight from a horror film with decrepit and likely death trap rides.

The animals then band together to thwart those plans, all while the hyperactive pug from the first film (Maya Rudolph) must contend with unwanted romantic overtures provided by the dog (Bobby Cannavale ) owned by the mayor's daughter. Thankfully, there's no typical male dog humping moments (this being a PG-rated kids movie), but there is the aforementioned barf, eat barf, more barf, eat that barf moment that passes for comedy here.

If that floats your boat -- or need for gross-out scatological humor -- more power to you. For me, it just felt like the screenplay by writer/director Cal Brunker and co-scribes Bob Barlen and Scott Bindley needed additional passes through the draft and editing process to get to the level of creativity, imagination and engagement we've come to expect from animation's best.

And while it apes the old Looney Toons construct of animals outwitting and ultimately besting humans, it possesses neither the laughs nor charm to get yours truly to grab some cinnamon sugar toast and chocolate milk, head down to the basement, and take in the antics. Likely to get on your nerves with its hyperactive style, and probably destined to be forgotten not long after you see it, "The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature" rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed August 5, 2017 / Posted August 11, 2017

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