Flushed Away
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir David Bowers, Sam Fell
scr Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais, Chris Lloyd, Joe Keenan, Will Davies
voices Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Ian McKellen, Bill Nighy, Andy Serkis, Jean Reno, Shane Richie, Kathy Burke, David Suchet, Miriam Margolyes, Rachel Rawlinson, John Motson
release US 3.Nov.06, UK 1.Dec.06
06/UK DreamWorks 1h25

Gotcha: Roddy and Rita fall into the clutches of Whitey and Spike

jackman winslet mckellen

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Flushed Away I suspect this animated film could hold the record for the most gags per on-screen minute--visual and scripted. It may have a fairly standard adventure plot, but it's so fiercely witty that you just can't stop laughing.

Roddy (voiced by Jackman) is a pampered pet mouse in a posh London home, but when his owners go on holiday, the sewer rat Sid (Richie) flushes Roddy down the toilet into a vast underground city, where he meets mercenary mouse Rita (Winslet). Together they run afoul of the rat-hating Toad (McKellen), and they'll need to thwart his nefarious plan if they hope to get Roddy home. They'll also need to escape Toad's goons (Nighy and Serkis), as well as a hired henchfrog (Reno).

Although it's digitally animated, the film retains the look and tone of Aardman's stop-motion movies (Wallace & Gromit, Chicken Run). The dialog is razor sharp, blending astute satire with hysterical silliness. At times it feels almost too dense, like a particularly raucous episode of The Simpsons that you know you'll have to watch again. In many ways, this means it's far more suited to adults who will catch the film references, rude jokes and English-French gags. But children will be convulsing with laughter due to the constant wackiness and high-energy action sequences.

Best of all is the full-on parody of London in the sewers below the city. The film's design is a riotously astute echo of the real thing, down to some very funny details. The dialog is loaded with goofy puns. And the story is packed with amusing touches (Rita's sprawling family is brilliant). There's so much happening that we can hardly take it all in. Spot the cockroach reading Kafka, the ridiculous Batman bit ("To the ratmobile!"), the daft American tourists, a fart joke that's genuinely funny, the fantastic running gags involving slugs, maggots and especially flies ("Help me!").

It's definitely worth seeing on the big screen, just to catch the detail. Then you'll still find new jokes on the DVD. Honestly, the whole film is worth seeing just for McKellen's outrageous evil laugh.

cert U themes, violence, innuendo 17.Oct.06

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2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall