By Fred Topel | Image property of Dreamworks Animation.
Flushed Away is the best animated film in years, since The Incredibles. We’ve been putting up with domesticated animals finding a new family in the wild, or secret worlds under our own, a quest home or rapid fire pop cultural references. As if they knew how tiring it would all get by now, Flushed Away puts all of the animation staples together and makes it better than any of the recent knockoffs.
Movie Review: Flushed Away
Roddy the rat (Hugh Jackman) gets an unwelcome visitor to his posh British home. Trying to get rid of him, Roddy himself gets flushed down the toilet and discovers a world of rats living in the sewer. When he comes upon Rita (Kate Winslet), his quest to get home becomes a race to save the entire sewer from the evil Toad (Ian McKellen).
The setup is quick and gets the action moving right away. Quick references to James Bond, Wolverine and Nemo show that the filmmakers know what they’re doing, but they’re not calling attention to them. Scatological humor is worrisome at first but they become the most skillful poop jokes since Austin Powers. What kid would really appreciate a curry digestion joke? That’s for us.
Kids will love the slapstick cartoon violence but parents will too. These cartoon rats get injured gratuitously, usually in the rat nuts. But it’s a skillful build-up and ultimately clever how many new things they find to hurl at the nuts. Recurring gags like “keep your legs straight” continue to pay off.
Maybe I’m reading too much into things, but I thought there was a very adult reference when Roddy mistakes an orifice for a pocket. It’s probably just supposed to be her butt but it could be something even more sly, and it’s totally harmless for families.
The film continues to mess with the conventions of all movies by toying with the echo-y imagination voice and the ominous music at the beginning of Roddy’s quest.
The world under the sewer feels rich and populated, not like it’s just some transposition of our own. Sure, they make cities and vehicles out of things we’ve thrown away, but they’re used cleverly. Who would have thought of an egg beater as a speedboat?
The action scenes are more exciting than the last four Michael Bay movies. That boat chase follows all the standard beats of movie chases but it gets you involved in the tensity of the chase. You could say it’s a fast paced, edge of your seat thrill ride.
The characters are memorable and wonderful. Roddy isn’t just some spoiled house pet. He made a creative life for himself with household means, and he’s not ragging on the sewer world. He’s just trying to get by. The hitmice chasing them are brilliant. They bumble but they’re not incompetent. They just follow the heroes but miss the little details.
The slugs are guaranteed to be the hottest toy at Christmas. Their singing is adorable and catchy. Their reactions provide the most insightful commentary on the story and they’re never in your face and annoying.
Flushed Away uses pop music so it will have a full soundtrack, but it actually works. It establishes the world, the tone, provides source music and even parodies some of the film’s moments. The Benny Hill theme is always funny.
CG London looks great, crisp and almost real. The fact that the characters still look like Aardman clay makes the film feel more original than the usual band of knockoffs. I don’t usually like the rounded features and thin heads but on rats they look cute.
Flushed Away will make you excited about animated movies again. It shows you can still do something with heart and soul even though everyone else is trying to cash in.