It’s been a few years since we last caught up with Surly, Andie and the rest of the gang.  In that time, they have made a life for themselves….in the condemned peanut shop from the first film.  Living high off the hog, they have stayed under the radar, Surly has become the respected leader and life for the community is good.

In an early moment in the film, Andie (voiced by Katherine Heigl) tries to teach the younger generation how to forage for themselves, trying to instill the natural instincts that are lost when we become too complacent.  Of course, this is as far as the script takes that thread when the peanut store blows up.

And that’s the problem with “The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature” – this was the only story thread they should have explored.  Much like the condemned peanut shop, Cal Brunker, Bob Barlen and Scott Bindley just bulldoze their way through that one plot point as they elect to meander through a greedy mayor who wants to capitalize on the land with a theme park, a spoiled daughter, a nonsensical animal control officer and the addition of ninja mice. The trio does focus on making sure that Surly addresses the ongoing issue of survival, but they didn’t take any care to make his struggle relatable to the audience.  Eventually, Surly gets there; it just takes a tragedy or three to get there, but he does get there.

That’s not to say that what is on the screen isn’t all bad.  There is an awkward love story between Precious, voiced by Maya Rudolf and Frankie voiced by Bobby Cannavale which ultimately works, no thanks to the circumstances in which they came together. Heigl and Arnett do quite well when their characters are apart from each other, but their awkwardness at the beginning of film spoiled the latter half.

Once the story found its footing, the overall premise of this film was better than the first film owing to Cal Brunner’s direction.  Brunner’s attention to the use of the 3D space throughout the film is top notch leading to some very strong character moments.

Brunner made two smart choices here.  The first was to bring Heitor Pereira over from Despicable Me; the score here is sublime.  The second brilliant choice was to add Jackie Chan as Mr. Feng.  The ‘cute’ gag got a bit old, but it serves its purpose.

As I left my screening, I was fuming over the inconsistent storytelling and awkward character moments paired with the gorgeous animation.  Yet, all I could think about was the classic Peter Paul company Almond Joy jingle: “Sometimes you feel like a nut.  Sometimes you don’t.”  It is better than the original film, but the inconsistency drags it down.

Now in theaters, it will appeal to the younger crowd and those who are young at heart.

The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature