Directors: David Bowers, Sam Fell
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Ian McKellen
Watch Flushed Away online in the UK: Netflix UK
Have you ever peeked down the toilet to survey the sewers beneath? Aardman (makers of Wallace and Gromit) obviously have. The only problem in sharing their vision of that refuse-ridden watery world? Precisely that – plasticine, even in the most creative hands, isn’t exactly a liquid. Rather the opposite in fact. The solution? DreamWorks Animation.
Teaming up to animate their models with CGI, the result is a fairly impressive hybrid of computer and plasticine, bringing us the familiar goggly eyes and buck teeth of Aardman, if not its usual wit.
The plot is simple enough: Roddy (Jackman), a rat from Kensington, gets flushed down the toilet by his housemate Sid (Richie). In struggling to get back to the surface, he meets Rita (Winslet) and together they foil the evil toilet-based plan of The Toad (McKellen). Throughout the film, the jokes come thick and fast. The sad part is that the majority of them aren’t very good. After seeing Roddy getting hit between the legs by various metal objects once, the humour wears off. After seeing it 10 times, you wonder what went wrong – perhaps a lack of plasticine physicality in the CGI slapstick.
Jackman does a good job as Roddy, the upper-class rat out of his depth. Kate Winslet, however, leaves him to drown with her two-dimensional character, complete with a flat-pack family that lacks any originality. Things get even
murkier with the introduction of Jean Reno as ‘Le Frog’, a French assassin with a team of amphibians that reek of the Madagascar penguins.
The gem of the cast is, unsurprisingly, Ian McKellen, who imitates Noel Coward to perfection with his monarchy-obsessed villain. Switching from evil to camp in a way that only Family Guy’s Stewie can rival, he makes up for the poor jokes elsewhere. Andy Serkis and Bill Nighy also do a decent enough job as his soft henchmen.
As the action quickly steps up the gears to 11, we see electric whisks chasing boats, echoing the usual brilliance of previous Aardman projects. You can almost hear ‘cheeese!’ echo- ing through the sewer tunnels. The film is saved, in the end, by slugs. That sing. The sight of a slug, mouth wide open, screaming at the top of his little slug lungs is hilarious. Thank goodness they turn up so often. These little touches keep Flushed Away from going down the U-Bend, but still leaving it safely circling the basin.
Flushed Away is available to watch online on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.