This Rat-Infested Caper is Worthy of the Toilet
This chaotic animated feature proves two things. One: Singing slugs can save a picture, or nearly. Every time the slug chorus overreacts to the hero or breaks into a number, "Flushed Away" suddenly improves. Two: If you take the Aardman Features' animated style, familiar in its contours (and its characters' massive teeth) from the Wallace & Gromit adventures, then run everything through the depersonalizer known as uninspired computer animation, you come out with a forgettable DreamWorks/Aardman co-production.
Storytelling clarity and a protagonist of some interest are lacking here, despite five screenwriters and seven more contributors of "additional material." In the posh Kensington district of London, domesticated, pampered Roddy the mouse (voiced by Hugh Jackman) is visited by a sewer rat who ends up flushing Roddy down the toilet into an underground sewer lair, modeled on London itself, populated by rodents and amphibians. There, Roddy meets Rita (Kate Winslet), a rat with her own boat and a boatload of attitude.
When they're not at each other's tiny rodent throats, Rita and Roddy team up to vanquish Toad (Ian McKellen) and his dastardly plan to rid the underworld of its rodent population. Mainly the film is a chase interrupted by arguments and reminders, by way of exceedingly frantic cutting and restless, overcrowded compositions, that "Flushed Away" is also a video game. As Roddy and Rita shoot the sewer rapids and dispatch their froggy assailants, you think, well, it might be fun to play the game sometime ... but in the meantime here's this movie that doesn't do much to make you care much about the characters, even with Jackman and Winslet voicing them.
Given the Aardman pedigree, it's rather remarkable that "Flushed Away" ends up in the quality range of a standard-issue CG job as "Over the Hedge." These movies need to look like something, and they need decent verbal jokes. And not to sound like Old Man Darling in "Peter Pan," but please: a little less noise there.
Directed by David Bowers and Sam Fell; screenplay by Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais, Chris Lloyd, Joe Keenan and Will Davies; visual effects supervision by Wendy Rogers; edited by John Venzon and Eric Dapkewicz; production design by David A.S. James; music by Harry Gregson-Williams; produced by Cecil Kramer, Peter Lord and David Sproxton. A Paramount Pictures release; opens Friday, Nov. 3. Running time: 1:25. MPAA rating: PG (crude humor and some language).