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Review: 'The Nut Job' 3-D animated movie doesn't quite crack it

'The Nut Job,' featuring the voices of Will Arnett and Katherine Heigl (and an animated Psy at the end) has well-animated animals but a too complicated story.

By Annlee Ellingson

4:45 PM EST, January 16, 2014

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Winter is coming to Oakton, the fictional city circa 1959 at the center of the new 3-D animated film "The Nut Job." Unfortunately, the critters who occupy Liberty Park haven't been able to store enough food to survive the season. That's of no concern to the aptly named Surly (Will Arnett), a purplish squirrel who looks out for only himself.

When Surly discovers a stash of snacks in a closed nut shop, he makes a deal with peacekeeper Andie (Katherine Heigl) to share the loot with the rest of the park. Trouble is, a gang of thieves plans to use the nuts in a heist of the bank next door. 

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Based on a 2005 short by director Peter Lepeniotis, "The Nut Job" features decent CG animation, especially of animals, but the writing isn't particularly clever, relying on obvious puns and slapstick humor. Moreover, in a bid to raise the stakes, the plot consists of double-crosses upon double-crosses upon double-crosses that kids may not be able to follow.

By far the nuttiest element is the inexplicable incorporation of an animated version of Korean pop star Psy, leading a closing-credits curtain call to "Gangnam Style." Because of the tune's association with pistachios after last year's Super Bowl ad? More likely because several executive producers are themselves Korean. In any case, it's a dated and bizarre coda to an otherwise stale snack.

"The Nut Job." MPAA rating: PG for mild action and rude humor. Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes. In general release. 

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