Well-placed pop-culture references, wry British humorand some singing slugselevate Flushed Away from the typical animated fare, but only slightly.
As clever as it can be at times, Flushed Away's plot is still formulaically step by step. Step one: Introduce hero, one Roderick St. James (Hugh Jackman), aka Roddy, a pampered but lonely pet mouse who lives in a posh Kensington flat in London. Step two: Propel Roddy into the utterly foreign world of the city's sewers by flushing him down the toilet. Step three: Hook him up with a cute renegade mouse named Rita (Kate Winslet) with a nifty boat, who makes a pact with Roddy to take him back to his home in exchange for some riches she can use to help her extended family (32 brothers and sisters, to be exact). Step four: Have the two of them then outwit the villainous Toad (Ian McKellen), mob kingpin of the sewer city Ratropolis, after discovering his dastardly plan to rid the sewers of the rats. Step five: Happy ending. Not too complicated.
We've got a mostly British A-list this time around, and everyone sounds enthused to be indulging in the make-up free, come-in-your-sweats fun of vocal work. Jackman infuses Roddy with the appropriate upper crustiness but who soon warms to his surroundingsand his new friend, especially since he's never really had any friends before. Winslet's Rita is all pluck and spunk with a keen fashion sense and big mouse ears, while McKellen's malevolent frog is a big blowhard with a goiter. But, as is the case with these animated films, the side characters provide the laughs. There's Toad's main hench-ratsWhitey (a very deep-voiced Bill Nighy), an ex-laboratory rat who's experimental shampooings have left him bald and an albino, and Sid (Andy Serkis), a wiry weasel who is not nearly as tough as he purports to be. Toad's French cousin Le Frog (Jean Reno), a cross between Jackie Chan and Inspector Clouseau, is also hilarious. The best part, however, are the sewer slugs, who don't say much but rather add any musical accompaniment deemed necessary.
Aardman Productions and DreamWorks, the same folks who gave us Wallace and Gromit movies, seem to have perfected the clay animation techniques and incorporated a lot more CGI. Flushed Away is definitely more polished than the W&G's, but the big teeth and general sardonic British sensibilities are all still there. The sewer life is visually bustling, using everyday items to create their world, such as the bad guys riding hand mixers as wave runners to chase after Rita's boat. Plus, the film is loaded with enough funny pop culture references to keep the adults laughing (thank YOU, Shrek!) For example, when Roddy is zooming his way down the water pipes, he sees a yellow striped fish who asks, "Have you seen my dad?" Nope, there really isn't anything inherently wrong with Flushed Away, save for an overdone plot. Kids and parents alike should enjoy themselves.
Hollywood.com rated this film 2 1/2 stars.