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Flushed Away is a 2006 computer animated British film directed by David Bowers and Sam Fell. It is a partnership between Aardman Animations of Wallace and Gromit fame, and DreamWorks Animation, and is Aardman's first completely computer-animated feature as opposed to the usual stop-motion.

The film stars the voice talents of Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Andy Serkis, Bill Nighy, Ian McKellen, Shane Richie and Jean Reno. The story was by Sam Fell, Peter Lord, Dick Clement & Ian La Frenais, and the screenplay was written by Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais, Christopher Lloyd, Joe Keenan, and William Davies.

The film was released in movie theatres on November 3, 2006, and is distributed by Paramount Pictures, except for Switzerland, Spain, and the Netherlands, which were handled by Universal Pictures.

Plot

Roddy St. James is a decidedly upper crust pet rat who makes his home in a posh Kensingtonmarker flat. When a common sewer rat named Sid comes spewing out of the sink and decides to stay, especially as England are playing Germany in the FIFA World Cup final, Roddy schemes to get rid of Sid by luring him into the "jacuzzi", which is actually the toilet bowl. Sid may be an ignorant slob, but being a sewer rat, he knows his plumbing. He plays along and instead pushes Roddy in and flushes him away into the sewer.

There, Roddy meets Rita Malone, an enterprising scavenger rat who works the drains in her faithful boat, the Jammy Dodger. Rita does not like Roddy initially, but ends up taking him along as The Toad sends his henchmen, Spike and Whitey, after her because she had stolen back her father's prized jewel a long time ago. The Toad despises all rodents to the point of hateful obsession, blaming rats for his fall from grace (he was once Prince Charles' pet). He decides to have them frozen with liquid nitrogen. However, The Toad's plan fails. Worse, during their escape, Rita takes a unique electrical cable. The cable is required to control the Floodgates. The Toad's evil plan is to open the gates during halftime of the World Cup, drowning the rats and their underground city in sewage. He can then use the depopulated city as a home for millions of his own tadpole offspring.

Roddy finds that the ruby is a fake and breaks it in front of Rita, enraging her, for she can now not get the money she needs for her large family. Roddy offers her a real ruby if she takes him back to Kensington. Accepting the offer, the pair first stop to visit her family before setting off. During Roddy's stay, he overhears a conversation that causes him to think that Rita had double-crossed him, so he steals the Jammy Dodger. When Rita catches up to him, he is able to clear up the misunderstanding.

The pair evade Spike and Whitey pursuing in a remote-controlled toy boat, with Thimblenose Ted and others on eggbeater jet skis. During this scene, Roddy and Rita share a quick love moment. Incensed at his minions’ repeated failures, The Toad sends to France for his cousin; an infamous, if somewhat laid back, mercenary known as Le Frog. Le Frog and his subordinates intercept the duo and retrieve the cable, but Roddy and Rita use a plastic bag to lift themselves out of the sewer (snatching away the cable during the ascent) and get Roddy home, though the Jammy Dodger has to be sacrificed.

Back home, Roddy pays Rita the promised ruby and an emerald, then proceeds to show her around his house. She at first believes he has family in the home, but noticing his cage, she realizes he's a pet. Roddy tries to pass Sid off as his brother, but Sid and Rita know each other. Rita tries to persuade Roddy to come with her, but he is too proud to admit that he is lonely. By now, they have fallen in love but have not told each other their feelings. She departs, both of them broken-hearted, but is soon captured by The Toad.

Talking to Sid about half-time, Roddy pieces together The Toad's plan. He gives Sid his cushy position and has Sid flush him back to the sewers to find Rita and save the city. Together, they defeat The Toad and freeze the wave of sewage generated by the flushing of countless toilets during the FIFA World Cup half-time with liquid nitrogen before it drowns the entire rat population.

Rita and Roddy build the Jammy Dodger Mark Two and set off in her with Rita's entire brood. A newspaper article reveals England had lost on penalties. Rita and Roddy become boyfriend and girlfriend. Later while the credits start, Roddy's former owner comes back with a new pet (a cat), which frightens Sid.

Characters

The characters in the film are all rats, frogs, (musical) slugs, and toads with an exception of some partially "unseen" human.

  • Roddy St. James (voiced by Hugh Jackman) An aristocratic rat who is flushed away to the sewers and sees life in new eyes. He suffers from sea sickness while going along the sewer canals in the Jammy Dodger
  • Rita Malone (Kate Winslet) A strong female, Rita is part of a family of 36 brothers and sisters. She has flaming red hair and green emerald eyes. She also suffers from hay-fever and sneezes frequently when near pollen.
  • The Toad (Sir Ian McKellen)
  • Le Frog (Jean Reno)
  • Whitey (Bill Nighy) - the less-intelligent of The Toad's right hand rats. Whitey, despite his hulking size, is actually very gentle and polite, even to those he is supposed to be intimidating and is never seen engaging in any actual violence.
  • Spike (Andy Serkis) - the smarter of The Toad's top two henchmen, Spike is characterised by a manic enthusiasm for villainy, despite being too stupid to be genuinely evil.
  • Sid (Shane Richie)


Production

The film's original concept involved pirates, and was pitched to DreamWorks soon after the release of Chicken Run in 2000. However, Aardman were told that there was no market for pirate films (this was before Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was released to great success in 2003), and were told to modernise the concept. By the time the rewrite was done, the project had to be postponed to make way for the production of Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit; it was finally released after not only the original Pirates of the Caribbean, but also its first sequel.

The film's working title was Ratropolis, but it was changed due to its similarity to Disney-Pixar's Ratatouille. In Spain, the movie was released as Ratónpolis (ratón is Spanish for "mouse"). The Latin-American title for the film was Lo que el agua se llevó ("Gone with the Water"), a pun on Gone with the Wind.

Traditionally, Aardman have used stop-motion for their animated features, but it is very complex to render water with this technique, and using real water can damage plasticine models. It would have been very expensive to composite CGI into shots that include water, of which there are many in the movie, so they chose to make Flushed Away their first all-CGI production. The characters still resemble Aardman's classic characters, as the designs were taken straight from the original plasticine models. Several techniques were employed to give the impression of stop-motion animation, such as using replacement mouths for lip-synch rather than the interpolation typically seen in computer animation.

The film underwent many changes and versions, resulting in an inflated budget. For example, Roddy originally had two hamster manservants named Gilbert and Sullivan that were featured heavily in early trailers.

This is the second of two Aardman-produced films released by Dreamworks. Aardman's experience with Dreamworks during the making of the film led to a split between the two studios.

DVD release

Flushed Away was released on DVD February 20, 2007. It included behind the scenes, deleted info, Jammy Dodger videos and all new slug songs. It was released in the UK on April 2, 2007, where it was packaged with a plasticine 'Slug Farm' kit.

Reaction

Critical response

Flushed Away has a 72% favorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Box office performance

Flushed Away collected $64,488,856 in the United States, which was below the average of other CGI films from Dreamworks Animation, but a healthy $111,814,663 from international markets for a worldwide total of $176,319,242.

References

  1. Buy Flushed Away [Exclusive With Slug Farm Kit!] - DVD Video from Woolworths.co.uk online shop


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