Flushed Away Review: Wasted Opportunity
by Alex Billington
November 4, 2006
Flushed Away is a far cry from the enjoyable, funny, and wonderful animation films like the Shrek franchise that have come from DreamWorks' 10-year-old animation division (now an independent spin-off known as DreamWorks Animation). A light-hearted movie about a pampered pet rat thrown in the sewers of London, Flushed Away deserves only to be flushed down the toilet itself. Its recognizable cast of voices doesn't help add much to what is already a very short and dull film.
Roddy St. James (voiced by Hugh Jackman) is a pampered pet rat of a young girl in London and lives the good life with nearly every amenity he can imagine. His owner and her parents leave the entire flat to him as they head out of town to catch the final game of the World Cup. Before long, a dirty sewer rat intruder named Sid (Shane Richie) arrives from the drain in the kitchen. In an attempt to get rid of him, Roddy is instead tossed by Sid into the toilet and flushes him down into the sewers, where Roddy ends up in a rat city. Roddy then goes on the adventure of his life as he meets Rita (Kate Winslet) and is soon pursued by menace The Toad (Sir Ian McKellen) and his two hench-rats Spike (Andy Serkis) and Whitey (Bill Nighy), as he tries to escape the sewers to get back to his lavish home.
I love animation and I do recognize that at this point in time most animated films are made more for children than for an audience of all ages to enjoy. Even after applying that filter to Flushed Away, I really don't think it's that great of a movie. It progresses through a harrowingly short 86 minutes and leaves not a second to catch your breath - something definitely needed with a movie that has as bad as a stench as this one. With only a few memorable scenes, Flushed lacks a heartfelt story like those for which rival Pixar is celebrated. What Flushed instead offers are childishly fun scenes of crotch hits, exaggerated physical comedy, and stupidly enjoyable humor, but at such an immature level that even parents will not want to sit through it. Even the screening crowd full of children hardly laughed at any of the movie.
DreamWorks Animation, working in concert with acclaimed animation house Aardman, can't create a compelling story around a solid cast of characters. The technical aspects are by contrast excellent: the scenery is vivid and the character design is unique. The style seemed to be a digital twist on the Aardman style made legendary in the "Wallace & Gromit" films with mouths over-opening during talking and a jilted feeling like claymation. Although quite noticeable initially, it doesn't take long to get used to this style. No technical achievements or great voice actors can make up for the awful storytelling and brainless comedy that makes up the bulk of Flushed Away.
An interesting observation: DreamWorks Animation must have had some troubled reactions initially or other creative differences internally with Aardman. They entirely cut any mention of Roddy's two butler hamsters that were seen often in the trailer. It seems as if an entirely new version with new animation, where they were removed, was made. I was looking forward to seeing them, but they were nowhere to be found. Although I am not fully aware of the circumstances, these creative differences between animation studio Aardman and DreamWorks were probably behind this quick re-hash and much poorer redo.
Unless your children demand you go see it, I'd suggest you stay home and rent Cars on DVD or try and find a theater still showing the much better Open Season. The singing slugs that make an appearance every 10 minutes in Flushed Away are the only parts that could garner any laughter from the crowds, even children, but beyond that there's nothing notably funny. Thankfully Flushed Away is quite short, so if you do end up seeing it you'll be happy to know that after the first 30 minutes there won't be much more to see. Hold off on watching an animated rat movie until Pixar's Ratatouille comes out next June.