"The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature" is about a talking squirrel that teams up with his animal friends when an evil mayor destroys their home in order to build a dangerous amusement park. They work together to save their home, defeat the mayor and take back the park. The cast is the old gang from the first “The Nut Job” movie, but if you didn’t see it, that’s OK because this is a new adventure.

The story begins with a sarcastic purple squirrel named Surley (voiced by Will Arnett) and his mute rat friend, Buddy. Together with their animal friends, they thrive on an abandoned stash of nuts at Maury’s Nut Shop. Evidently, Maury’s went out of business and left of lifetime supply of nuts in the basement. There is plenty to eat, and there is no need to scourge for food in the wild. However, Andie the squirrel (voiced by Katherine Heigl) worries that they have become lazy and lost their survival instincts.

Unexpected calamity strikes and the nut shop is accidentally blown up by Mole (voiced by Jeff Dunham). Evidently, Mole forgot to turn down the water pressure in the shop’s boiler of the central heating system. Everyone is upset that their lifetime supply of nuts is gone. However, Andie is optimistic and insists it’s an opportunity to get back to their roots by foraging for food in Liberty Park.

Meanwhile, Mayor PJ Muldoon (voiced by Bobby Moynihan) relishes in his wealth that comes from profit-making locations across his city. The mayor notices that Liberty Park is not making money, so he decides to turn it into Liberty Land amusement park to pocket more cash.

When Surly and Andie discover Mayor Muldoon's plot, they convince the animals to fight back. They sabotage the construction worker's efforts to tear down the park. When the foreman of the construction workers tells the mayor about the animal attacks, Muldoon calls an extermination squad led by Gunther (voiced by Peter Stomare) to get rid of the animals.

In the midst of the chaos, Surly and Buddy meet the leader of a street mouse gang named Mr. Feng (voiced by Jackie Chan). Mr. Feng is small with big eyes and ears, but hates being called cute. Beneath his fuzzy exterior is a fierce and menacing master of Kung Fu. He describes himself as “a weapon of mouse destruction.”

Overall, the film has a positive message about teamwork and friendship. The community of animals puts aside their differences and works together to overcome obstacles. Of course, the animals have plenty of not-so-noble motives and actions, including revenge, theft, destruction of property and taking the law into their own hands.

You might be wondering if “The Nut Job 2” is family-friendly. As a parent, I’d say it is best for children ages 5 and up. Some children may be frightened by the slapstick violence, as characters are electrocuted, bonked on the head, hit by a car, or otherwise injured in a way that's played for laughs. Some of the human characters use weapons and explosives, such as the gun-toting mayor and his animal-control man. The mayor and his daughter treat animals sadistically. At one point, she is shot with a dart gun but quickly recovers. Roller coasters are blown up, as the amusement park is torn down with heavy metal music blaring in the background.

If your kids are older, you might talk to them about the stereotypical characters in the film, and the consequences of their actions. Construction workers are depicted as illiterate, unable to think for themselves and blindly following the mayor’s instructions. The animals take the law into their own hands and mastermind an elaborate scheme to take revenge. The mayor is wealthy and wicked, and engages in money laundering and bribery. The mayor’s daughter is psychologically spoiled and thinks its funny stab her dolls with scissors and knives. The movie could be a springboard for discussion, and reminds us that life isn’t always black and white. Good characters can do bad things, and have mixed motives.  

“The Nut Job 2” is rated PG for action and some rude humor.


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