Starring: Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Ian McKellen
Director: David Bowers, Sam Fell
Running Time: 85 mins
Flushed Away is an American/British film about a posh rat living as a pet in a Kensington household whose world is turned upside down as he is flushed down the toilet to the world of the sewers. There, along with an ally he finds, he must find a way to get back home, all the while evading impending capture from the henchmen of a diabolical frog.
Aardman’s trademark is stop-motion. It always has been, and it always will be, so this rather abrupt transition into computer animation after being bought by Dreamworks was always going to be wrought with difficulty, and I’m afraid to say that it didn’t work out particularly well. Although Flushed Away has a few good jokes and some strong voice performances, it’s a film that feels like it’s sold itself out, featuring very little of the best of Aardman’s classic wit, and even less of its delightful animation style.
On the whole, I wasn’t a fan of Flushed Away, but there is one part that I did enjoy: the central voice performances. Hugh Jackman does a great job at sounding as posh as he possibly can, and Kate Winslet brilliantly pulls off the plucky sewer rat who he teams up with, both making their characters as entertaining and energetic as possible, whilst also having an impressive chemistry throughout the movie.
The likes Ian McKellen, Jean Reno and others also put in some fun performances, but apart from the voice acting, there wasn’t much to like about this film.
Above all, my biggest issue is the animation. If you’d never seen Wallace & Gromit or Chicken Run before this, then it wouldn’t be such a bother, but given how iconic and successful Aardman have been over the years with their stop-motion, the computer animation that attempts to mimic it is painfully irritating to see throughout, and given that the quality isn’t even that good by 2006 standards, still looking like video game cutscenes instead of motion picture animation, is just another problem that makes the film’s visuals all the more annoying.
Another problem that the film has is its brand of comedy. Again, Aardman’s original productions aren’t just iconic for their animation, but the unique style of wit they bring to the table. That does pop up from time to time here, but it’s on the whole a far cry from the clever comedy of Wallace & Gromit and, to an extent, Chicken Run.
The film attempts to rectify its comedy issues by going all out in Britishness, but that’s something that comes back to bite it as the film goes on. Frankly, there’s no need for a film to be as overly ‘British’ as this apart from pandering to an increasingly Anglophilic US audience. With Union Jacks as far as the eye can see, constant references to London tourist landmarks and wacky trivia, and an annoying array of averagely-done regional accents, the excessive Britishness of this film is something that really got on my nerves throughout, and yet more evidence that the film is more of a sell-out than anything else.
Overall, I was very disappointed by Flushed Away, simply because I know Aardman can do so much better. Although Nick Park wasn’t involved in the film, it’s still a hugely disappointing sight to see the company go for this generic, empty and shallow movie. The voice performances provide moments of entertainment, and kids will be able to look past the film’s biggest issues, but I just can’t accept how Flushed Away sells out every one of Aardman’s best qualities, and that’s why it gets a 6.1 from me.