Parents need to know that The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature is the sequel to 2014’s The Nut Job. It continues the story of a squad of park animals who must find a new food source when their beloved nut shop burns down. As in the original, there are a few scatological (i.e. burp and fart) jokes, as well as physical comedy gags in which a character is electrocuted, bonked on the head, or otherwise injured in a way that’s played for laughs. But some of the human characters use weapons, particularly the gun-toting mayor. A father and daughter almost sadistic in the way they treat animals, and a child (albeit a violent, unlikable one) is shot with a dart gun. But there’s a clear message about the idea of creating your family by choice — in this case, a community of animals that protect and take care of one another.
It’s not particularly memorable, but this animated sequel will still appeal to younger viewers who have a low bar for entertainment — talking animals, silly jokes, and sight gags. The plot of The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature is slim and unoriginal (and, for that matter, not entirely consistent with the original’s ending), but at the very least there are continued positive themes about teamwork and friendship. Home, these animals believe, isn’t about biological instincts to be out in the woods but rather their commitment to be with one another.
The only good parts are a sweet flashback to how Surly and Buddy became friends and the fact that Jackie Chan voices the leader of a huge crew of adorable white mice with amazing kung-fu skills. They’re cuddly and wide-eyed — but never call them “cute,” or they will hurt you. Other than that part of the story, when the mice martial artists make themselves known, there’s just not a lot to propel the movie beyond the level of mediocrity that parents willingly endure to make their kids happy. But parents — and kids — deserve more from family-friendly movies than unnecessary sequels with nothing substantive to contribute or say.