6 out of 10
"Pardon me, my flies aren't done"
A tribute to all pets who have met a watery doom "Flushed Away," written by Aardman founder Peter Lord and directed by fellow Aardmaners David Bowers ("Curse of the Were-Rabbit") and Sam Fell ("Wat's Pig"), provides a lighter side to a journey down the jacks in this comical and bizarre picture with all the unique in-jokes and loveable features of previous releases "Chicken Run" and "Wallace & Gromit." As many charms as it has however, it is also mired in as many problems.
The barely perceptable storyline of "Flushed Away" is it's main downfall. Usually known for their unique wide eyed less is more style of animation and Pythonesque style of humor, one would expect to see a story with the creativity and imagination come to life for which they have become famous. Instead, like the Were-Rabbit bunny which occassionally appears in the background of a shot, the brilliant moments are few and far between and although the characters appear to be Aardman, their lines and actions seem to be navigated by someone else.
Opening in the posh London suburb of Kensington, Roddy (Hugh Jackman), a pampered and innocent family pet, is enjoying some quality time at home when he is interruped by the appearance of Sid, a loveable simple East Londoner type from the wrong side of the drainpipes. After being treated to a weekend of football and snacks, Roddy decides to encourage Sid to try out the family's whirlpool jacuzzi aka toilet bowl. Things sour as Roddy is forced to switch places in the jacuzzi and is flushed into the sewer, where he is propelled into a foreign land of abandoned pets. After becoming acquainted with various shady characters, including a spirited seafaring jewel thief Rita (Kate Winslet) and a fearsome but well mannered pet toad (Ian McKellen). Uncovering a plot against the residents of the sewers, the retiring Roddy decides to rescue the town and save Rita and her family.
Undeniably cute and featuring cameo appearances by Aardman's Rex the Runt and football commentary by John Motson, "Flushed Away" contains all of the witty jokes and British charm of Aardman's previous efforts and is their first ever expedition into the world of CGI. However, although taking the transition very well, it is unfortunaltely an undeniably tepid, constrained and vastly underdeveloped picture. While the characters are fun to watch, particularly the miming Frogs who are led by the criptic Le Frog, voiced by Jean Reno - the plot quickly becomes tedious, and with contributions from over seven writers including "Frasier's" Christopher Lloyd and "Lovejoy's" Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, is often overly serious, unfocused and too confusing to follow. With it's clever humour, including a china breaking scene that would be the envy of Borat, what could have been a memorable comedy, is instead sunk early on by poor character development , mundane vocal talent and a romance too prickly to generate interest, the end result seems more like an advertisement for the toy merchandise which is sure to follow. Similar to the ship Titanic, even with the addition of shreking slugs (voiced by Nick Park and Karey Kirkpatrick), a charming one legged bottle-blowing fishseller (Christopher Knights), his direction-giving fried goldfish (David Bowers) and even a spot containing Prince Charles, "Flushed Away" remains firmly lost at sea.
A fun outing for kids and cute on the big screen it is clearly a family picture and aimed at those too young to know better and one which may still be of interest to fans of Aardman, however it is a terribly written project that "flushes away" a stellar cast and surprisingly the edge of an animation company that I've always thought would stand up to anything. As the film's poster says - "Someone's going down" - hopefully it will be the one responsible, so Aardman can get on with better things and while still in their five picture deal with Dreamworks, produces something which doesn't aim so low.
Film Critic: Jennifer M Lillies