Cast: Hugh Jackman as Roddy (voice) Kate Winslet as Rita (voice) Ian McKellen as Toad (voice) Andy Serkis as Spike (voice) Bill Nighy as Whitey (voice) Shane Richie as Sid (voice) Jean Reno as Le Frog (voice)
Summary: The makers of “Wallace & Gromit” return in “Flushed Away.” A great performance by Hugh Jackman and a ton of in-jokes make it a fun movie for the whole family.
Story: Roddy is a pampered pet rat living in the exclusive side of London. However, his world is turned upside down when a sewer rat invades his home and then flushes him down the toilet. Roddy finds himself in a new world inhabited by a whole civilization of sewer rats. Desperate to make his way home, he turns to boat captain Rita to help him get back to the surface. Unfortunately Rita has her own set of problems. A local frog gangster named Toad wants a prized ruby in her possession and will stop at nothing to get it. Thus begins a chase through the sewers and Roddy’s quest to get home.
Flushed Away is rated PG for crude humor and some language.
What Worked: I’m a big fan of “Wallace & Gromit,” so I was eager to see this computer-animated film done in their clay animation style. While it’s not as good as “Wallace & Gromit,” it’s still funny and entertaining for young and old. What makes it so much fun is the sly sense of humor and the numerous in-jokes hidden in the backgrounds. For example, in the opening sequence, Roddy the rat, played by Hugh Jackman, raids a doll clothes closet looking for an outfit. He eventually pulls out a full Wolverine (comic book yellow and blue) outfit before discarding it in favor of an Elvis outfit. Later in the film Roddy and Rita are about to be frozen in blocks of ice by the evil frog. In the background you see another rat, dressed as Han Solo, frozen in a block of ice. These subtle, little touches make it so much fun to watch. What was even better was that my four-year-old son even got the jokes and was able to appreciate them along with me.
Hugh Jackman was the perfect casting choice for the film. Many times in these animated films the actors display very little personality in their roles. Any actor could play the character equally well. But Jackman manages to do more with Roddy. He makes him whiny like C-3PO, yet likable at the same time. Jackman sings at one point, too, ala Tom Jones. And despite being a jerk at times, he ultimately ends up being charming and a great love interest for Rita. Speaking of Rita, she was well played by Kate Winslet, too. She’s hip, trendy, feminine, and tough. The supporting goons, played by Andy Serkis and Bill Nighy, end up getting a lot of laughs as a kind of dim-witted Laurel and Hardy duo. But the real scene-stealers are the slugs inhabiting the sewers. From wordless screams to emotional ballads, they never fail to generate a laugh.
The character designs and set designs in the film are fantastic. For example, the sewer rat in the opening sequence wears a shirt that, upon closer examination, you realize is a pair of underwear. And everything in the rat world is made of some ordinary household object. From egg beater jet skis to plastic grocery bag parachutes, everything is made from human junk. The end result is a rich visual experience.
What Didn’t Work: The pacing of the “Flushed Away” is a bit disjointed sometimes. One minute the bad guys are chasing Roddy and Rita for one object, the next they’re being chased for another. In one scene they’re being chased by one set of bad guys, later another group is chasing them. The characters will travel what seems like a great distance only to end up almost exactly where they started from in the heart of the rat city. These are obviously minor gripes, but it could have been done better.
And as well as the CGI works, I kind of miss the clay animation. It’s incredibly time consuming, but there’s something about it that makes it unique. You can actually see the literal fingerprints of the animators on the characters as they move around. You appreciate the technical work to a greater degree than you do in computer animation, however right or wrong that is.
The Bottom Line: With a fun cast, great character design, and an amusing story, “Flushed Away” is a movie the whole family can enjoy.