THE FILTH & THE FURRIES
FLUSHED AWAY ★★★ Directed by David Bowers and Sam Fell. Voices of Kate Winslet, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Jean Reno, Andy Serkis, Bill Nighy, Shane Richie, David Suchet, Miriam Margolyes G cert, gen release, 84 min A GREAT deal of work has, I’m sure, gone into Aardman Animation’s first computer-generated feature. Indeed, the fact that the film centres on a contemporary World Cup final between England and Germany (yeah, right) suggests that the animators were so inundated they were unable to meet their initial deadline.
For all their efforts, Flushed Away does, nonetheless, come across a little like Aardman Lite. An efficient, if significantly cooler, Plasticine simulation programme now stands in for the claymation techniques that brought Wallace and Gromit to life. The rats, frogs and slugs that populate the film have the same glued-on eyes and flexible monotone flesh we remember from the studio’s best films, but they no longer display visible fingerprints as a record of their creators’ dedication. Meanwhile, the quaint yet sinister England of Ealing and Hammer has been replaced with a London modelled on picture postcards and Richard Curtis films.
That said, Flushed Away remains a very funny piece of work and, in its bracing vulgarity and devotion to the dumb gag, acts as a satisfactorily broad retort to the swathe of dull, heartless digital features that fouled-up the summer of 2006.
Roddy St James (voiced by Hugh Jackman), a posh rat, pet to a Kensington teenager, is taken aback when a working-class ani- mal from the same species invades his master’s home and – like similar characters in films by Pasolini and Losey – begins fouling up the air with his aggressive normality.
Roddy attempts to flush the invader down the loo, but, the class politics of British cinema dictating that the poor are cunning, finds himself hurtling down the u-bend towards an underground London full of crafty cockney rodents and comically surprised slugs. There he teams up with Kate Winslet’s mariner rat in her attempts to thwart the evil schemes of a megalomaniac toad voiced, with diabolical glee, by Ian McKellen.
As is the way with these things, we have to endure many instances of animals gyrating to pop tunes and more than a few character arcs of deadening predictability. But you are never more than a minute away from a decent joke. Any family film that can take over $50 million in the US without jettisoning a Larry Grayson reference or an allusion to a “bum like a Japanese flag” is all right by me.
Rat pack: our heroes are in deep doo-doo in Flushed Away