One of the best ways to watch an animated movie is in a theater full of kids, at 10:30 in the morning. In those surroundings, Aardman's [creators of Wallace & Gromit and Chicken Run] Flushed Away comes across as a glorious success.
Roddy [voiced by Hugh Jackman] is a pampered pet, used to the comforts provided by wealthy owners – his cage is practically a castle. When a sewer rat named Sid [Shane Richie] arrives on the scene that all changes – in a doomed attempt to flush Sid away, Roddy finds the tables turned and winds up in a remarkable city in the sewer.
Before long, he finds himself in the middle of old enmities, a surrogate family and high [but damp] adventure – all because he meets Rita [Kate Winslet], a proud, independent scavenger who plies the sewers in her boat, the Jammy Dodger.
Rita, it seems, has a ruby that is wanted by the villainous Toad [Ian McKellen] – who sics his henchrats, Spike [Andy Serkis] and Whitey [Bill Nighy] on them. Alas, the ruby is only a minor deal to The Toad, who has another – far more nefarious – plot afoot. A plot that is inadvertently foiled by Rita when she shuts down Toad's headquarters…
If you're a fan of Wallace & Gromit, or Chicken Run, you will undoubtedly enjoy Flushed Away. The first Aardman feature by someone other than Nick Park – it's directed by Park's colleagues, David Bowers and Sam Fell – may have a few of the bodily function gags hinted at in the title and the trailer, but it is actually far more clever than that.
The opening scenes, with Roddy partying after his owners leave for a long weekend, are given a later reprise that shows both the hollowness of what he thought he was missing, and a stark contrast to what he finds in Ratropolis. The city – a weird composite of London and Venice, Italy – is home to Rita and her family. They're an odd lot [naturally] but very loving, and they take Roddy to their hearts – though he's not so sure about that.
The misunderstanding that finally culminates in Roddy's return home is not the most original thing about the movie, but it's earned and nicely sets up Roddy's eventual epiphany. From that point, Flushed Away shifts into high gear and the film, which has been very to that point, soars.
The first Aardman production to be completely CG, Flushed Away is a triumph of spirit and story over dazzle. Instead of wowing us with meticulously detailed CG effects, Bowers and Fell use the computer to give the Aardman look to a film that would've been much smaller if it had been done in the traditional stop-action manner. The result is a world that is just real enough to be believed in, and yet fanciful enough to delight.
The plot is a fairly straightforward thing that is enlivened by solid characterizations and gags both subtle and gross [not too gross – this is Aardman, after all]. For the cinephile, there are clever homages; for the kids there are one or two bodily function gags and lots of slapstick; for the adults, visual puns and genuine emotional moments. If Flushed Away was to win the Oscar