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The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature

There are peanuts and pistachios aplenty in director Cal Brunker's computer-animated sequel but the biggest nuts are family audiences, who shell out for this plodding, derivative mess. The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature is a joyless and clumsily constructed affair, which continues the misadventures of a selfish purple squirrel, who learnt a valuable lesson about self-sacrifice in the first film after he carelessly destroyed one animal community's winter store. Alas, the bushy-tailed rodent has relinquished any warmth or likability by the opening frames of this pedestrian follow-up, and Will Arnett's vocal performance suggests he is as tired of the character as us. When a fellow squirrel scolds, "You're not as funny as you think you are," it's a harsh yet fair assessment that could also apply to Brunker's picture. The script repeatedly short-changes a gifted cast including martial arts superstar Jackie Chan, whose new addition to the animal fold is a tiny white mouse with an aversion to the term 'cute'. Physical humour falls flat and action set pieces, including a fur-raising ride on a rollercoaster, are loosely bolted together with gossamer thin strands of romance and reconciliation. The sequel returns to the fictional metropolis of Oakton City where Surly the purple squirrel (Will Arnett) basks in the adulation of fellow critters including Buddy the rat (Tom Kenny), Precious the pug (Maya Rudolph) and groundhog siblings Jimmy (Gabriel Iglesias) and Johnny (Sebastian Maniscalco). The animals have taken up residence in the basement of Nibbler's Nut Shop, where they feast on barrels and hessian sacks of cashews and almonds. "Go back to the park, Surly. It's where we belong," cautions Andie the red squirrel (Katharine Heigl), who fears her four-legged pals are losing the ability to scavenge, as nature intended. When the shop is razed by an explosion, the animals decamp to nearby Liberty Park. Peace and good will in the creatures' verdant home are destroyed when greedy mayor, Percival Muldoon (Bobby Moynihan), announces his intention to bulldoze the leafy oasis in order to build an amusement park. His spoilt daughter Heather (Isabela Moner) loudly approves the plan and Muldoon hires unhinged animal control officer Gunther (Peter Stormare) to forcibly clear the park of wildlife. Surly, Andie and co fight tooth and paw to defeat the mayor's underhand scheme. Their secret weapon is Mr Feng (Jackie Chan), "a weapon of mouse destruction" with extraordinary martial arts skills and a vermin army that heeds his every squeak. The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature should be avoided by anyone with an allergy to mawkish sentiment and unimaginative visuals. A romantic subplot involving Precious and Heather's strutting pet bulldog, Frankie (Bobby Cannavale), is tepid and doesn't pluck a single heartstring. When the fur flies, we yawn or answer the call of nature.