See It Instead: The Nut Job 2.
In case you have a nut allergy (or a lousy kid movie allergy) we’ve got three flicks to watch instead of The Nut Job 2.
The sequel nobody asked for is here, so now we have to scramble to find something suitable to watch instead. The Nut Job was one of those throw-away kids movies with cute rodents out to steal food, all while entertaining your tot with plenty of fart jokes and inappropriate double entendres. It made a modest profit, and that should have been the end of it. We gave the studio enough scratch so that they could walk away winners…but like Surly the Squirrel, they got greedy and came back for one too many bag of nuts. Or sequels, as the case may be.
Since this genre in general and this plot in particular (greedy developer spoils pristine habitat and must be thwarted by vague fuzziness) is a dime a dozen, we came up with several similar films that should tide you over and get the kids off your back. Especially our last pick. We guarantee your kids will never ask you to take them to a movie again when you show them Watership Down.
The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature (2017)
After having successfully led his furry friends to the promised land (a store that exclusively sells nuts) Surly Squirrel seems to have things made. Then the store promptly explodes. Back on the hunt for a safe spot, he settles on relocating everyone to the city park…which is promptly sold to a developer looking to turn the pristine parkland into a tacky amusement park. All of the critters must band together to thwart the redevelopment plan and save their new home.
The Serious Pick: The Secret of NIMH (1982)
Mrs. Brisby is a field mouse and single mother who is caring for a desperately sick child. The mice learn that their home is in the path of farm machinery and that they must flee to a safer location. Mrs. Brisby cannot leave since the trek would kill her ill child, so she seeks out a mystical stone that will allow her to move her whole home. The stone resides with a secretive society of hyper intelligent rats who have escaped from a medical facility called NIMH.
We covered the horrendous sequel, but the original film is one of the finest animated films Don Bluth ever created. The is fluid and detailed, and while it includes many of the creepy visual flourishes that are Bluth’s trademark, it is also beautiful and original. The characters are dynamic, especially the lead character, Mrs. Brisby. She’s a strong role model and engaging protagonist. The supporting cast is likewise endearing, and Dom DeLuise provides tremendous comedic relief. No light and fluffy adventure, The Secret of NIMH is fraught with big themes and mature topics that are not sugar coated. It is essential viewing for those who are tired of mindless kid movies.
The Lighthearted Pick: The Chipmunk Adventure (1987)
Before CG ruined Alvin and the Chipmunks, there was a grand adventure in a feature length film created by the folks behind the beloved cartoon series. Alvin and the gang are stuck at home while Dave is away on business, and they promptly get into trouble. A pair of smugglers recruit Alvin, the Chipmunks, and their rivals the Chipettes to go on a race around the world in a pair of hot air balloons. The smugglers make it out to be a game where the chipmunks must pick up and drop off stuffed toys, which are actually filled with stolen diamonds. Despite their rivalry, the boys and girls realize they must team up if they are to complete their round-trip and avoid everyone who is chasing them for their cargo.
God bless everyone involved in this hair-brained film. This plot would make a full fledged studio blush, but the people behind the cartoon decided to self-finance and write the thing. Disney’s bad luck with the over-mature Black Cauldron movie freed up several animators who jumped ship to work on the Chipmunk Adventure, making the animation quality of this film astonishingly high. The film is filled with music and visuals that punch well above their weight-class. Along with a bizarre smuggling scheme and lots of vaguely adult themes, it all adds up to an animated adventure that is so mindbogglingly crazy that it becomes a must-see event.
The Unconventional Pick: Watership Down (1978)
Watership Down is the animated adaptation of a beloved English children’s story that proves that the English do not understand the concepts of “children” and “beloved.” It tells the story of Fiver, a clairvoyant rabbit who gets a vision of the impending destruction of his warren. He leads a small group of believers away to find a new home, but they run into every terrifying mortal enemy to rabbits imaginable. Having arrived at the promised land with no females, they try to make contact with another warren but discover that they are war-like rabbits. In order to escape their wrath, they have to unleash a farmer’s dog so it can maul every last one of their enemies.
So…not exactly family friendly material, but it does tell a riveting, if gory and pants-wettingly adult story. I guess when your film starts with a rabbit creation myth that says god made predators because rabbits are jerks who won’t stop breeding, you’ve established a world where we get to see cute fluffy bunnies get murdered in surprisingly accurate ways.
The Apology Pick: Hoot (2006)
A group of middle schoolers band together to stop a greedy developer who wants to bulldoze a vacant lot that happens to be the breeding grounds for a very rare species of endangered owl.
This movie is alright. Solid but not inspired, it never fails to keep a classroom entertained when I need a free period to grade mangled math assignments. It’s based on a popular book aimed at pre-teens and remains fairly faithful. There’s a bit of the “after school special” flavor to this film, but it teaches a good lesson about conservation and the importance of natural habitats. I wish I could say it was life-changing, but I’m just offering it as cover here so that you can show it to your kids after you’ve thoroughly traumatized them with diamond smuggling chipmunks, medically enhanced super-rats with magic amulets, and mass bunny genocide. You’re welcome.