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Nov. 7, 2006

"Flushed Away" stays clean on screen

by Elsi Wu, Online Sports Editor
A new brand of toilet humor, "Flushed Away" is one of few animated films that breaches the gap between funny and sophisticated humor. From the creators of "Wallace & Gromit," this British creation brings inventiveness to a season of animated films that has so far been less than comically satisfying. With a host of stars to breathe life into the film's dazzling animations, "Flushed Away" is a surprising hit for casual weekend movie-goers.

Roddy St. James (Hugh Jackman) is a neurotic, pampered, pet mouse who spends his time playing beach volleyball, attending movie premieres and participating in a host of other make-believe events populated by him and the plastic dolls residing in his owner's swanky Kensington flat. Living in the lap of luxury, Roddy's life is seemingly perfect until an unwelcome guest, sewer rat Sid (Shane Richie), bursts up the sink pipe in a water main explosion and crashes into Roddy's world. In a last effort to ditch the rude and sloppy Sid, Roddy entices him with a spin in the "jacuzzi" (the toilet), but instead gets "flushed away" himself.

What Roddy discovers in the London sewage system is beyond anything he imagined. An entire, bustling miniature London; put together with odds and ends of trash and occupied by mice. Despite his awe, Roddy is eager to return home to save it from Sid's disastrous presence. In his quest back "up top," he is directed to seek the services of Rita (Kate Winslet): a street-smart, treasure-hunting mouse, whose taste for jewels gets her tangled up with the maniacal Toad (Ian McKellen) and his henchrats Whitey (Bill Nighy) and Spike (Andy Serkis).

A great fast-paced comedy for kids, the film's storyline is also refreshingly classy, a welcome change for parents and other movie-goers alike. Although the film takes place in a London sewer, it gets away with a lone, thankfully underplayed vulgar joke in the form of floating Snickers bar that Roddy first mistakes for a you-know-what. From then on, the laughs are intelligent, and some even fly right over the heads of the little ones, including a cockroach reading Kafka's "The Metamorphasis."

Not to be mistaken, the humor is smart but not snooty, and the biggest laughs require no thinking at all, coming from a crowd of singing slugs that break the tension and provide commentary throughout the film. Who knew a couple of slugs belting out a rendition of Ike and Tina's "Proud Mary" could be so entertaining?

The film is also helped by the actor's commendable voicing which were perfectly cast for each role. Jackman gave the bumbling Roddy a loveable quality, Winslet brought out Rita's quickness and ingenuity, and McKellen's role as the power-hungry Toad was a match made in humor heaven.

From Dreamwork's top-of-the-line animation to the top-notch voicing, "Flushed Away" hits all the right notes, with a little help from the slugs, of course.

"Flushed Away" (84 minutes) is rated PG for crude humor and some language and is playing in theaters everywhere.



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