Do the Rat Thing

Flushed Away

Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, and Ian McKellen star in a film written by Sam Fell, Peter Lord, Dick Clement, and Ian La Frenais and directed by Fell and David Bowers.

Reviewed by D.J. Palladino

Potty humor can be sophisticated, don’t you know. As proof, consider Flushed Away, the new cartoon from the studio that brought forth Wallace & Gromit. It stars a rat named Roddy, who’s flushed down from his Kensington digs into another London, a Ratropolis built near the golden waters of the city sewer. Beside the malodorous microcosm — providing class system satire — Flushed offers more gratuitous movie references than a Tarantino film. In the first 10 minutes you’ll catch Little Nemo, Caddyshack, James Bond, and the X-Men represented. And these are only the most obvious in-jokes, all there for jaded parents expecting the next Shrek. Maybe kids won’t dig the inter-textualities, but entering a sewer world via the family’s porcelain throne will probably sustain them while the Shakespeare-like comedy develops. May there always be a Britain, I say, for the sake of low global humor.

Now some of your more circumspect animation devotees may want to point out how this film relies on computers and not the plasticine-model stop-action technology usually employed by England’s great Aardman Animations studios. This is both true and false. Aardman used computers in the past, and in fact, they “discovered” the technology used for this film while making The Curse of the Were-Rabbit’s bunnies disappear into Wallace’s Bun-O-Vac. Turns out, stop-action’s hard to do with water and this film makes a lot of water.

The best part, though, is the way Flushed neatly skims the surface of its absurdist plot, not avoiding the main poop, but keeping it clean enough for you to take the dive. It’s blissfully un-educational, too. In a world where animation features seem to be secretly plotting to make ecologically responsible citizens from our spawn, this film features singing slugs, soccer louts, and power-hungry frogs all fighting for an easy life. It’s not The Lion King maybe, but then Disney would never turn this circle of life into film, anyway.

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