A posh pet rat from Kensington (Hugh Jackman) is usurped by a working class sewer rat (Shane Richie) and has to make his way in the filth of London’s subterranean plumbing system. He becomes embroiled in some sort of plot by a toad voiced (Ian McKellen) to destroy the rat city and must team up with Rita (Kate Winslet) to save the day.
I never thought I would write a bad review of an Aardman animation, but when they made Flushed Away their quality controllers seem to have been on holiday. The plot is simultaneously confusing and unsubstantial, with a villain whose aims are unclear until the final act and a checklist of kiddie movie tropes dutifully completed with frustrating predictability. There’s the forced romance between the two main characters, the outcast hero saving the day, the stupid bad guys (a dull equivalent of Chicken Run‘s Nick and Fetcher) and the cutesy comic relief. It feels like it’s been done before.
Like Chicken Run it tries represent a much-maligned creature, but fails to approach anything near those levels of brilliance. While Chicken Run was about saving chickens from their cruel captivity, Flushed Away is about stopping a toad from destroying the city with a machine that opens a sewer door to let in the half-time urine of Londoners during the world cup final. One provides a satirical angle to a real-life issue and makes it accessible to kids, the other is an excuse for toilet jokes.
The switch to computer animation from clay removes a lot of the charm of previous Aardman outings, which can be compensated to some extent by the likes of Ian McKellen and Hugh Jackman, but not by empty-voiced Kate Winslet. The desire to be laugh-a-minute means it relies on incredibly lame gags that even the youngest audience member will feel like they’ve heard before. While Wallace and Gromit are laugh-out-loud, Flushed Away never reaches anything close to their high watermark,
This isn’t the worst animated film ever, but with Aardman you expect that bit extra, which isn’t delivered in this painting-by-numbers kids movie which isn’t fit to fill Wallace and Gromit‘s toilet.