The last film to be co-produced by Aardman Animation and DreamWorks Animation, Flushed Away has a reputation as a bit of a disappointment. That's how it seems anyway, when you consider the relatively poor box office result and the fact that few people mention it nowadays when listing favourite animated films. That's a bit of a shame, because Flushed Away remains a lively and witty adventure comedy, full of great vocal work, wonderful sight gags, and hilarious singing slugs.
Hugh Jackman is the voice of Roddy St. James, a pampered pet rat who enjoys his good life. But that is all thrown into disarray when his owners go on holiday and a sewer rat named Sid (Andy Serkis) finds his way into the house and decides to take it over for himself. In attempting to get rid of Sid, Roddy ends up in the toilet, and then . . . flushed away. Down in the sewer, completely out of his element, Roddy eventually teams up with a rat named Rita (Kate Winslet), the two aiming to return Roddy to his home and foil the deadly scheme of a rat-hating toad (Ian McKellen).
Directed by Sam Fell, who came up with the initial story idea, and David Bowers, Flushed Away works as well as it does thanks to the detailing of the underground city populated by the rats. It's a mini version of London, with plenty of puns and visual nods and gags, and there are plenty of items repurposed for the rodent citizens. It also has a pretty great script, written by a team of writers including the mighty sitcom masters Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais. You get memorable characters and numerous fun exchanges between them, although the weakest element may be the central strand showing the two leads always being pursued by henchmen of The Toad.
The animation throughout is lovely, although fans of Aardman may be slightly put off by the fact that this is computer-animated throughout. That doesn't make any difference to the character design work, or the attention to detail, but it does give it a different look to the typical stop-motion aesthetic that so often adds to the charm of their projects.
Jackman and Winslet do well in the lead roles, the former really ladling on the charming toff act as he is appalled by grime and nastiness around him and the latter being much more ready to get things done without any attempted airs and graces. McKellen makes an amusing villain, helped in his scheme by characters voiced by Bill Nighy, Shane Richie, and Jean Reno, who are all also very enjoyable in their roles. Serkis isn't really involved for many scenes, but he does just fine. And whoever did the sound work on those slugs, who first appear shrieking at the appearance of Roddy before popping up occasionally to show off their singing voices, deserves a big slap on the back. It's a fantastic addition to the movie, even if it is just a bit of nonsense.
I am sure that I will remain in the minority with my love for this movie for some time to come, but I encourage others to at least remember it exists, and maybe give it a rewatch with the knowledge that the sheen of computer animation does nothing to lessen the humour and creativity we've come to expect from Aardman over the years.
You can buy the movie here.
Americans can buy it here.