Flushed Away

 

 

Aardman, the animation house that gave us Wallace and Gromit, announced the ending of their collaboration with DreamWorks (Shrek) just as Flushed Away was released. And watching it, you can understand why. High on sentimentality and laden with backstory, it’s a DreamWorks movie with Aardman touches, rather than what Aardman probably hoped for – an Aardman movie with DreamWorks muscle behind it. A good movie that could have been a great one, in other words, though the good stuff makes it worthwhile. The over-complicated story tells the tale of Roddy St James, a privileged London pet rat (voiced by Hugh Jackman) who gets “flushed away” down the toilet and into the sewers, where he meets Rita (Kate Winslet), an attractive scavenger rat. And before you can say “mismatched buddies” or “unlikely lovers” the pair of them are being pursued by heavies (Andy Serkis, Bill Nighy) working for subterranean gangster The Toad (Ian McKellen). It’s around this point that Roddy calls for the help of his laidback French mercenary cousin Le Frog (Jean Reno) and his team of crack ninjas to help him. Was this before or after they returned to Roddy’s gilded cage in Kensington, for some time-wasting to-and-fro between Roddy, Rita and Sid (a low-rent sewer rat voiced by Shane Richie)? I don’t remember.

As with Aardman’s Chicken Run and all their Wallace and Gromit output, film parody and film reference provide texture and a little something for adults to enjoy. And as well as an eclectic, well chosen soundtrack taking in Billy Idol, Elgar and Tom Jones, it’s got a perky script with salty highs – “I’ve got a bum like a Japanese flag” someone says at one point – which seems to have survived the rewrites that Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais’s original draft went through, presumably to inject the sort of brassy heroism and “follow your dream” ethos that Clement and La Frenais have not built a career on.

The stop-motion claymation is out too, replaced by bright, clean CG, that does pay lip service to the quirkiness of the original, and doesn’t disgrace itself in its big set pieces, particularly the finale when the final of the World Cup between England and Germany (another plot strand) threatens to wipe out all life in the sewers.

Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman do what they can with characters that aren’t all that memorable, symptomatic of the film itself – it’s minor characters such as McKellen’s Toad and Reno’s Frog who delight, vocal asides that amuse, throwaway details that enthral. When the best of Aardman is allowed to come through, in other words.

 

Flushed Away – Buy it/watch it at Amazon

 

 

 

© Steve Morrissey 2006

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Flushed Away”

  1. I saw Flushed Away at a press screening in Berlin where it was shown in English to an overwhelmingly German audience. Leaving aside the clichés (Germans DO have a sense of humour – it's just different, okay?!), coming as yet another in a long line of CGI films and with (let's be honest here) a less than gripping concept, Flushed Away had only a certain amount of goodwill from this professional crowd. So when an audience like this, yours truly included, laughs aloud and often then there's something special up on the screen!

    The humour is overwhelmingly English and there is none of the morality messaging that makes family films from certain other studios such a cringe-inducing experience. The characters are very well drawn (literally as well as figuratively) and the voice casting is universally excellent. The standard of animation is fantastic but you never once get the sense that anyone is showing off what they can do. This is a story- and character-driven film, with the technology there to serve. Anyone writing it off because it is not claymation is doing themselves a great disservice.

    Lovers of Wallace & Gromit and Aardman's work in general will have a ball spotting the oh so many references. The level of detail is amazing and it's going to take many viewings and many hours with the DVD on pause to spot them all. There are the bunnies from Curse of the Wererabbit, for example. I spotted the Lion King on the little girl's windowsill, and so on. And on.

    When a film credits several writers, plus comedy consultants, it's usually a sign that the script has gone horribly and tragically wrong. Maybe it did, to begin with, and the start is just a tad slow, but it soon picks up speed and the jokes, verbal and visual, just keep coming.

    Like the best family films, Flushed Away appeals to audiences of all ages, but the very young might find it a bit long. Not that it lags at any time, merely that the wee tots might get fidgety, you understand.

    The cast do a great job and I'm not going to single out anyone for special mention. The performances are spot on and everyone is obviously having a tongue in cheek good time. For professional reasons, I get to watch some 300 or more films a year. Flushed Away belongs to the very, very few that I wanted to see again right after it had finished. And before you ask, no, I am not being paid, induced or threatened at gunpoint to write this. I had a cracking good time, as did my girlfriend (Julia, German, with sense of humour) and you will too.

  2. Flushed Away carries a weight of intellect with it not often found these days in American cinema and television. It's sharp-witted yet poignant and fresh at the same time.

    I went in with the expectations of it being another animated film in an ocean of animated films, but I was pleasantly surprised and thoroughly entertained.

    The message of the film is an ever-fading idea that isolation from each other is how we will become destroyed. The idea that one must go far, far beyond their comfort zone and any form of complacency to find what truly matters in life. The films treatment of this ideology, again, is brilliant in my opinion.

    It has excellent writing, the animation is absolutely top notch, and the voice talent live up to their high dollar reputations. Everyone is outstanding in this film and it is a must see during the holidays.

    Go see Flushed Away!!! Go now!!

  3. The fact that I could be entertained by another one of these animated talking animal movies is a miracle. Is this number 1000 over the past 2 years? I just love English sarcasm, wit, dryness that strikes a chord in these old bones. The great news, nobody was in drag.

    During the movie, there are inside English jokes that Americans may not understand such as "England loses on penalty kicks" which is a modern football tradition in the UK and the English love of knick knacks. The singing slugs don't do it for me but the kids liked them.

    I highly recommend this movie even if you are sick of computer animated talking animals.

  4. Flushed Away is the perfect marriage between the American Dreamworks and their crass sense of humor and the British Aardman and their dry sense of humor. Beside the obvious jokes about the sewer there's much to enjoy for the more sophisticated viewer. Like a cockroach reading FranzKafka's The Metamorphosis. The voice-cast is spot on: Ian McKellen as the evil genius The Toad is pure delight, Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman are clearly having a blast giving their voices to rats Rita and Roddy. But the cream of the crop are the singing and screaming snails. When they sing at the top of their lungs Proud Mary you laugh so hard you have to check your underpants to see if you haven't had a little accident.

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