Flushed Away (2006)
Flushed Away (2006)

Genre: Fairy Tale Running Time: 1 hr. 25 min.

Release Date: November 3rd, 2006 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: David Bowers, Sam Fell Actors: Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Ian McKellen, Jean Reno, Bill Nighy, Andy Serkis, David Suchet, Miriam Margolyes

 


 

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ven after their studio tragically burned down, the team at Aardman Animations has continued with their instantly recognizable, unique brand of stylized claymation. In “Flushed Away,” everything is now computer-animated and rendered – but great care was taken to preserve the look and feel of clay models. Unfortunately, despite brilliant character designs and a top-notch voice cast, it’s difficult not to feel the missing components of Wallace and Gromit, Aardman’s signature duo.

Roddy (Hugh Jackman) is the pampered pet mouse of the esteemed Kensington Estate, living a solitary yet peaceful, high-society life. One day, a gluttonous sewer rat makes an appearance and, much to Roddy’s dismay, intends on staying in the luxurious residence forever. In an unsuccessful attempt to rid himself of the unwelcome guest, Roddy is inadvertently flushed down the toilet and thrown into the chaotic underground city of Ratropolis. There he meets Rita (Kate Winslet), the adventurous captain of the treasure-hunting ship the Jammy Dodger, and strikes a deal with her to help him escape the clutches of the evil underworld overlord Toad (Ian McKellen) to safely return home. Along the way, they encounter plenty of comical villains and experience high-flying adventures – all without the usual, heavy-handed morality tales and goodwill lessons that plague most children’s films.

A talented and diverse voice cast embodies the characters in “Flushed Away,” ranging from vibrant to sinister to hilariously comedic. Jean Reno is Le Frog, the Toad’s martial artist cousin; Andy Serkis and Bill Nighy are slapstick-oriented henchrats; David Suchet is Rita’s father; and, curiously, some of the funniest moments in the film belong to the background slugs, who break into comical songs almost every time they appear. Lending to the sounds of these roles are superbly manipulated, anthropomorphized faces and bodies, each with specific costuming and accoutrements, all designed to look like palpable, plasticky concoctions. Close-set eyes and wide grins are additional, key features of the designs first perfected by Nick Park (with his Wallace and Gromit short subjects). But the most interesting new conceptualizations belong to the villainous amphibians, whose awkward countenances alone can incite laughs – not to mention the hilarity of their off-balance struts and wobbling eyeballs. The animation itself is smoother than stop-motion, but the computer artists went to great lengths to maintain the rigidity and restrictions imposed by physical models, particularly with mouth movements and exaggerated expressions. In fact, if it weren’t for the impressive water effects that would be nearly impossible with the older techniques, one might never know the clay had been replaced by modern methods.

It’s difficult to find family-friendly films that actually appeal to grown-ups as well as their target audience. Infused with copious amounts of physical comedy and subtle adult humor, yet miraculously devoid of clichéd ethical additives or even dated pop culture references, “Flushed Away” succeeds in being well-rounded entertainment, capable of diverting viewers of all ages. Even without Wallace and Gromit, it should be a cinch to embrace the new characters, their quirky mannerisms, and the cheerful adventure that permeates this light, silly, good-natured romp that definitely stands out amongst the onrush of cheap, hackneyed, computer-animated capitalizations on current trends.

– Joel Massie

  • 8/10