November 9, 2006

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Flushed Away (PG)
One of the brains behind Wallace & Gromit brings us the faster-paced but still delightful and endearing adventure of a sophisticated mouse lost in the street-smarts-requiring world of the sewer in Flushed Away, the rare kids' movie that will charm and amuse parents as well.

Roddy (Hugh Jackman) lives the life of a bon vivant taking tanned friends to the golf course during the day and piling them all back into the sports car by night so they can have a smashing cocktail party. Of course, it's a rather silent cocktail party, as Roddy, a pet mouse living in luxurious if lonely surroundings, socializes almost entirely with G.I. Joes, Barbies and other inanimate dolls. Though he might secretly long for someone to play with, our proper high-class hero is appalled when street rat Spike (Andy Serkis) shows up at his house, dirtying the furniture and hogging the TV. Roddy tries to convince Spike to take a dip in their whirlpool (the toilet) but instead it's Roddy who's flushed down the loo.

Coming to in a slug-filled sewer, Roddy tries to find his way out and instead finds a vibrant underground city. He's directed to Rita (Kate Winslet), captain of the Jammy Dodger, who might be able to navigate the Thames-like sewer and get him back to posh Kensington.

Rita, however, has problems of her own. She's being chased by The Toad (Ian McKellen) and his detective cousin Le Frog (Jean Reno), not to mention Le Frog's posse of ninja frogs. The Toad wants first the ruby that she's stolen to help feed her family and then the electric cable that she takes from his lair.

From Roddy's brief mental image of a Benny Hill-like existence if he allows Spike to stay with him to the charmingly demonstrated French stereotypes of Le Frog, Flushed Away is chock full of blink-and-you'll-miss-it moments of humor for the adults packed in around non-stop silliness to enchant the kids. The same slugs that give high-pitched little shrieks to the delight of kids later act as a Greek chorus offering up love songs and spooky sound effects. Without the jarring spazziness of many recent cartoons, Flushed Away manages to be energetic, getting us through the story at a brisk but not hurried pace. There is nothing harsh about this movie colors, dialogue and even the pop culture references all seem delightfully light and bouncy. The characters all have that Aardman Animation look, thanks probably to the participation of Peter Lord (co-founder of the Wallace & Gromit animating company along with Nick Park). Even the villains are vaguely friendly-seeming characters with a sort of good nature that can't be shaken even when they are fighting off razor-toothed tadpoles.

Many movies will be going after your family entertainment dollar over the next few months; Flushed Away is actually worth it. A

Rated PG for some sewer-related humor and language. Directed by Sam Fell and David Bowers, and written by Peter Lord, Sam Fell, Dick Clement, Ian LaFrenais, Christopher Lloyd, Joe Keenan and Will Davies, Flushed Away is an hour and 24 minutes long and is distributed by Dreamworks SKG in wide release.

Amy Diaz