FLUSHED AWAY: 3 ½ STARS
For the first time ever Aardman Animations, who gave us Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run, have put their clay figures into storage and taken a step into the 21st century, making a film that looks a great deal like one of their homemade stop-motion extravaganzas, but is actually computer animated. Flushed Away, the story of an upper class pet mouse flushed down the loo by a bullying rat, features great animation, an all star British voice cast and something that all kids love—toilet humor.
For the “No Clay! No Way!” purists out there it should be noted that the good folks at Aardman chose to go with computer animation for Flushed Away because of the number of scenes involving water, which is nearly impossible to portray convincingly in stop motion. To lend a handmade patina to the film they used software that reproduces the ‘imperfections’ found in claymation like thumb prints and dropped frames.
Flushed Away does not take place in the under water world of Finding Nemo or SpongeBob. No, most of this movie happens in the London sewer, a dark and dank Ratropolis occupied by rodent citizens who are threatened with extinction by a Toad King (Ian McKellen) who resembles a froggy Jabba the Hutt and his scheming rat henchmen. Dropped into this locality is Roddy St. James (Hugh Jackman), a snobby pet mouse from the Royal neighborhood of Kensington, who is used to the finer things in life.
Despite the best efforts of the evil Toad and his French Amphibian Ninjas to do Roddy in, he manages, with the help of an enterprising scavenger named Rita (Kate Winslet) to uncover the Toad’s nefarious plot to destroy Ratropolis and discovers that home is where the heart is, not just where all your stuff is. It’s sort of a rodent Upstairs Downstairs with Hollywood action.
Flushed Away lacks some of the cheerful charm of good old Wallace and Gromit, but what it lacks in charm it makes up for in sheer inventiveness in its action-packed story. It swirls along at quite a clip, effortlessly mixing literate verbal and visual jokes—we glimpse a cockroach reading Kafka’s Metamorphosis—with potty humor that’ll appeal to the kids. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find themes of urban loneliness, the reciprocated condescension between Brits and the French and the class system that still exists in Britain.
Worth the price of admission alone is the hilarious Greek Chorus of slugs who provide musical accompaniment for many of the scenes.