Jan 12, 2015

Review: Surly Squirrel (2005)

The Nut Job featured an ensemble voice cast with the likes of Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Liam Neeson, Katherine Heigl, Stephen Lang, Maya Rudolph and more. After grossing $113,307,962 worldwide and an incoming sequel in 2016, I suppose congratulations are in order for Canadian writer/director Peter Lepeniotis who started everything with nothing more than this simple short film, Surly Squirrel. 

It's a shame that TNJ is such a junk film though. It leans heavily on fart and burp jokes and I can now tell you from experience that nut puns aren't funny the first or the fifth time. It's clear that Lepeniotis signed a deal with the devil to get The Nut Job made. All he had to do was rework this short to certain standards and he'd be granted a star cast and more budget than he probably ever got to play with before in his career. It's probably a deal lots of people would agree to and it's paid off big time.


Genre: animation, short, comedy
Directed by: Peter Lepeniotis
Produced by: Pranay Patel, Dan Krech, Jackie Lynette, etc.
Written by: Peter Lepeniotis
Music by: N/A
Running time: 11 minutes
Production company: Pantaloons Productions, DKP Studios
Distributed by: N/A
Country: Canada
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry

Starring: Bruce Hunter, Eric Bauza, Joe Giampapa, Shona Glover, Jason Groh, Laura Rodgers



Surly the squirrel (voice: Bruce Hunter) and his partner Buddy the rat (voice: Eric Bauza) spot a box of pizza in a nearby garbage can by the park they live in. They quickly draw up a plan to avoid the park racoon and pigeons who would want to share the pizza and try to stop them from taking the pizza all for themselves. While they execute their plan, a bank robbery is in progress at the bank across the street, complicating things even further. 


You can't really describe the animation in Surly Squirrel as anything else but unspectacular. It's choppy and lacks finesse. This is 2005 though and I suppose this can be forgiven to a certain extent. The designs of Surly and Buddy are pretty bad though and don't look much like any squirrel or rat I've ever seen. But then again, there aren't too many talking squirrels or rats around either.

Humour is either mild hit or miss for the most part. There's nothing earth shatteringly funny in this short, but it's kind of entertaining in its own way. The way that there end up being two standoffs at the same time between animals and humans is definitely amusing. There's actually a surprising amount of action in the form of a shoot-out and a car chase. The chase sort of resembles the one in The Nut Job, but not really. It's a lot simpler and the story has been reversed slightly. 

One problem I have though with Surly Squirrel is that I don't know who I'm cheering for. Surly isn't a very nice guy at all and he treats his partner Buddy like garbage. He's more of a bad guy than anything else. It can't be the raccoon or the pigeons either because who likes sharing anyway? It's not the bank robbers and there's no way it's the cops either. Quite simply, this is a short that doesn't feature anyone to root for and that's an issue.

I also noticed that Lepeniotis used a toilet joke in the climactic scene which is pretty disappointing if you ask me. It's not the worst kind I've ever seen I suppose since it plays a part in progressing the story, but it's hard for me to accept. I just can't help but think that his comfortableness with toilet humour made the jump to The Nut Job all that much easier for him.

Surly Squirrel is definitely better than its feature-length brother, but it's far from a perfect film itself. The lack of a good main character plagued TNJ as well and it's not especially funny or thrilling as it tries to be. This only thing I can say is that I'm impressed that Peter Lepeniotis somehow managed to broker this OK short into an animated feature film that he got direct and co-write. 



Related Reviews:

The Nut Job (2014) 

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