Hugh Jackman is everywhere these days, from reprising his iconic Wolverine role in summer blockbuster X3, to starring twice alongside Scarlett Johansson in Woody Allen's Scoop and Christopher Nolan's The Prestige, and now, just lending his voice to a lead character in the animated film Flushed Away, co-starring his summer blockbuster star Sir Ian McKellen. Soon to come will be Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain. Whew! There seems to be no stopping this Hollywood flavour of the month!
Despite this animated movie being yet another one of many based on talking animals, Flushed Away doesn't try too hard to be funny by steamrolling pop culture into the story. It just is funny with its deft touches, be it dialogue, slapstick, or various sight gags. Although it's set primarily in the sewers, it's beautiful chaos, with loads of little details all over that you'll probably need to watch it twice over to appreciate all the effort put in to create the computerized graphical sets.
At first glance, you might think you're watching a Wallace and Gromit animated show. Yes, this is produced by the same studio, Aardman Animations, in association with Dreamworks, and it is no wonder that the animation, although computer generated, maintained a very clay like look and feel, as well as character designs bearing similar resemblance in style to W&G.
The story is simple enough, yet adequately satisfying by the time the end credits roll. As the trailer suggested, Aristocratic rat pet Roddy from Kensington (Hugh Jackman) thought he just had the whole classy apartment to himself, when an unexpected guest Sid (Shane Richie) from the sewers gatecrashes into his abode, and ejects him through the "jacuzzi". All these in less than 10 minutes. So begins a mad journey in an unknown sewer world which replicated the modern London City above it with junk, where he has to figure out friend from foe, and find his way back to where he belongs.
The themes of family and friends do not come on too strongly, instead the story preferred to let the character interactions bring forth the messages. Supporting or interfering in his quest are characters like Rita (Kate Winslet), The Toad (Ian McKellen), French Le Frog (Jean Reno), and rat minions Whitey (Bill Nighy) and Spike (Andy Serkis). It's quite commendable that in its less than 90 minutes runtime, it allowed for quite a bit of set action pieces to develop, along with almost laugh-a-minute lines of dialogue, a good mix of songs (Hugh sings!) and ooh, a diabolical plot.
But what perhaps is the show stealer, are the sewer slugs. Ever popping up and performing at the right time, I'm sure they are crowd favourites despite their less than pleasant looking exterior. I wonder if they do sell the soft toy version, as it should be quite hilarious.
If too many animated flicks left this year has left you jaded with the genre, Flushed Away just flushes away the competition. Worth checking out on the big screen!