is a rip-roaring nautical adventure with a twist: The heroes are a pair of rodents braving the sewers underneath London. Roddy (voiced by Hugh Jackman) is an upper-crust house-mouse who finds himself flushed into the subterranean sewers. Eager to return to his posh home, he enlists the help of a boat-captain rat named Rita (Kate Winslet), who has troubles of her own; namely the kingpin of the underworld, the Toad (Ian McKellen), and his henchmen including the French mercenary Le Frog (Jean Reno).
While technically Flushed Away could be considered part of the wave of celebrity-voiced, anthropomorphic-animal movies that hit in 2005-2006 (Madagascar, Over the Hedge, The Wild, etc.), it doesn't inspire the same sense of déjà vu. For one thing, its voice actors are less recognizable than the likes of Bruce Willis and Chris Rock. For another, its look is very distinctive. Like Nick Park's Chicken Run and Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, it's a joint production of DreamWorks Animation and Aardman Features, and although Park isn't involved, it retains his trademark blocky look of clay animation. But animating the movie by computer rather than by hand allows for some eye-popping tableaux, such as floodwaters rushing through the sewers and an entire town of little animated characters. It's a crazy thrill ride loaded with inside jokes and enough crude humor to earn a PG rating, and the band of singing slugs is also a hoot. --David Horiuchi
On the DVD
It's no surprise that the singing slugs are the stars of the DVD's bonus features. They're featured in two music videos (less than a minute total), and in a 13-minute segment an Aardman animator builds a slug out of plasticine. (In contrast, the lesson on drawing Roddy is a mere two minutes.) A song jukebox jumps to 10 musical points in the film, though the non-slug background music isn't really worth the jump. On the human side, there are eight-minute featurettes on the music and the voices, a set-top game that is easier to control than most such featurettes (and easier to beat too), and a commentary track by directors David Bowers and Sam Fell in which they have a grand old time remembering their inside jokes and showering love on the Spike and Whitey characters. The DVD-ROM has access to 21 more online games. --David Horiuchi
Fun Facts from Flushed Away
- In Tabitha's room, there are a variety of dolls from previous DreamWorks Animation films, including a Gromit and several bunnies from Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, an Alex the Lion from Madagascar, and a Dragon from Shrek.
- Many characters from past films make cameos in Flushed Away. For example, a Chicken Run chicken is on the second page of the Toad’s scrapbook, Gromit’s head is a pencil top in the Jammy Dodger, the penguin from Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers is on a stamp on the Jammy Dodger, and a poster of Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is on the side of a bus in Kensington.
- There are officially 60 million rats in the UK. That’s one rat for every person.
- The various boats in the film are made up of flotsam and jetsam that rats could conceivably find in the sewer. For the double decker bus: Ice chest, retro flipping numbers alarm clock, bike lamp, buckle, oil drum, soup can, license plate, rope, plastic suitcase, jerry can. For the mini cooper: Soda can, battery, sardine can, butter knife, old lights.
- Simulating the toilet water and making it look realistic proved to be a challenge. After much consideration, it was finally discovered that what was missing was caustics, or the use of light reflection off the bottom of the bowl. This was added and everyone was happy because they could finally get their mind out of the toilet.
Stills from Flushed Away (click for larger image)