November 3, 2006 | Comments ()

By Phillip Stephens | Film | November 3, 2006 |


The ongoing popularity of traditional stop-motion claymation is evident not only in the fact that Aardman Features continues to make successful films but that its latest, Flushed Away, is not claymation, but computer-generated to look like claymation. It may seem paradoxical to some, and purists will be disappointed, but apparently Aardman opted for CG when it became obvious that a story revolving largely around water would be impossible to duplicate convincingly with clay.

The result is a kind of hybrid that retains the charming look of claymation, replete with the “imperfections” of that medium such as fingerprints and dropped-frames, but is much too fluid and visual to appear as stop-motion. It doesn’t quite feel like a true Aardman film, but the animators take advantage of the computers to create a richly nuanced visual experience, and the spirit remains tied to the droll wit and spastic energy of English comedy.

In the upper-class London ‘burb of Kensington, a snobby rat named Roddy (voiced by Hugh Jackman) lives a pampered yet isolated existence. He entertains himself thoroughly while his owners are on holiday until a sewer rat named Sid (Shane Richie) crashes the party and flushes Roddy into the subterranean world. In his attempts to find passage back to the surface, Roddy quickly becomes embroiled in a struggle between a ship-owner/scavenger named Rita (Kate Winslet) and a sort-of criminal kingpin, the Toad (Ian McKellen). After initial setbacks, Rita and Roddy team up with the Toad and his minions (among them: Andy Serkis, Bill Nighy, and Jean Reno as “The Frog” [har har]) in pursuit.

Flushed Away begins with a manic intensity that takes some getting used to, but once the pace is set, it’s easy to accept the frenzied motions of the plot and inherent silliness of everyone involved. The film successfully walks the line between adult and child-oriented comedy, something neither Disney nor DreamWorks have been able to do on their own for years now. The action is extremely fast-paced and gags run aplenty, but there are enough quirky references to keep older kids and adults entertained. The energy of Flushed Away doesn’t leave a lot of room for much emotive response to the characters, as with a Pixar flick, but there’s enough to make it more than mindless entertainment; think of Chicken Run amped up a lot.

Aiding the movie greatly is its excellent voice casting, which gives the inherently English humor a firm grounding. Both Jackman and Winslet have pleasantly euphonic voices suitable to their characters, while McKellen and Reno chew their scenes (so to speak) as pompous amphibians. But it’s Bill Nighy who really churns out the laughter as a goofy albino. The voice work of Flushed Away achieves an excellent simultaneity with the faux clay art that is really rather funny in itself. Overall, this is a fun, if breezy little movie that should please everyone who sees it.

Phillip Stephens is the lead critic for Pajiba. He lives in Fayetteville, AR.

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Flushed Away / Phillip Stephens

Film | November 3, 2006 | Comments ()



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