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FLUSHED AWAY
U.S. Release Date: November 3, 2006
Distributor: Paramount (DreamWorks)
Director: David Bowers, Sam Fell
Producer: Peter Lord
Composer: Harry Gregson-Williams
Cast: Hugh Jackman (Voice), Kate Winslet (Voice), Ian McKellen (Voice), Tom McGrath (Voice)
Running Time: 1 hour and 26 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG (crude humor and some language)

Rat Pack Goes Down the Drain
by Scott Holleran

Neither as bad as its title nor as stupid as most in the crowded field of computer-animated movies, Flushed Away's charms do not suffice. The feature, from Aardman who created the amusing Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, is flawed, formulaic and sporadically funny.

Visually, the story of London sewer rats targeted for extinction by an evil frog (voiced by Ian McKellen) approximates the Wallace and Gromit stop-motion style. That is not the problem, though the clay-based look has certain advantages. A shoddy plot and theme do it in.

Uncouth humor helps. As Hugh Jackman's posh rat meets up with Kate Winslet's subterranean rat—by way of the title's toilet function—they fight and fall for each other amid slugs and parasites and use of saliva and other crude jokes. They escape the villains in a clever boat contraption.

Most of this is harmless, with Generation X's "Dancing with Myself" or Tom Jones classic pop blaring to typical antics. McKellen's frog calls in a French cousin (Jean Reno), which nets a few laughs. Aardman's inventive touch is evident in beds made of sponges and socks and the boat as a special issue trade tool for a lower class James Bond.

But it's high on gross-out gags, characters lacking in charisma, and, as they make their way back to daylight, begging whether Rat City will be saved, rat droppings pile up. Jackman plays another clumsy, helpless male to the superior, all-knowing female, Winslet hasn't spit this much since Titanic, and there is contempt for anything civilized.

With an ending that endorses Robin Hood ethics—Flushed Away uses property theft as conflict resolution—it becomes an especially unpleasant waste of otherwise witty writers and talented animators.


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