Flushed Away

Flushed Away

Film review by: Witney Seibold


            It seems the good folks at Aardman Animation, usually accustomed to making clever and mannered British comedies like “Chicken Run” and the “Wallace & Gromit” movies, have been chugging too much contraband Red Bull. “Flushed Away,” their first (and I hope only) CGI-animated feature starts at a brisk and brightened pace, and constantly speeds up, rapidly rotates through tones, and eventually climaxes in a noisy, delirious explosion of movement. By the time we get there, it’s hard to pay attention anymore.


            The story: Roddy, a domesticated rat (Hugh Jackman) lives in luxury in a penthouse apartment, and is pleased as punch when his owners leave for vacation, giving him run of the place. His lonesome idyll is interrupted when the chubby slob Sid (Shane Richie) pops up out of the drain. Sid ends up flushing Roddy into the sewers below London, where he disovers a whole ghetto-like city of sewer rats. He meets the lovely Rita (Kate Winslet) a tomboyish handywoman, and she promises to return him to the surface. Rita, however, is unintentionally involved in a plot hatched by the horrid Toad (Ian McKellan, very game), who wants to flood the entire sewers and kill all the rats, leaving things free for the amphibians. Also involved at various points are: a cadre of French frog assassins (funny!) led by Jean Reno, a visit to Rita’s enormous extended family, themes of loneliness vs. company, and a whole lot of shrieking slugs. Bill Nighy and Andy Serkis appear as rat thugs.


            The animator’s made a strange but aesthetically pleasing choice in the character animation: although Roddy and all are all rendered by computers, directors David Bowers and Sam Fell decided to keep the design and movement of them as close to the traditional Aardman plasticine as possible. The usual toothy facial movements and beady eyeballs are all perfectly in tact, and while the computers make the characters move a little more swiftly and smoothly than the plasticine animators would have made them, it’s nice to see Aardman’s mark is present.


            Evidently, “Flushed Away” was going to be a plasticine-animated feature, but it’s really, really hard to animate water, and in a film full of it, the makers decided to opt for computers, which would make the process easier. Fine. CGI has less warmth and less weight than a cell- or clay-animation, but does make for easier water effects. Unfortunately, the speed that went into the production allowed the filmmakers to improvise more and more gags along the way until every last frame of the film’s 84 minutes seems stuffed with cheap, childish jokey throw-offs. It’s not engaging, it’s just sensory overload. According to the bonus documentary on the video I saw, the dozens of slugs were an afterthought which mushroomed into a running-gag of hideous proportions. The slugs are cute, but they represent the central problem of the film: there’s too damn much too damn quick.

             The central gag of the film involves massive amounts of urine in one place. There are fart jokes, sewer jokes. And even a rather disgusting sight gag pointing out what a Baby Ruth candy bar really looks like. Does such a juvenile film, obviously aimed at younger kids, warrant the slickness that went into it?

Published in: on October 10, 2007 at 10:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

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