Plot: Roddy the rat seemingly lives the high life. He has a mansion of a cage in his mansion of a house, he eats well, pampers himself and never misses an opportunity to have some fun. The one problem is that he is terribly lonely. When his owner isn’t around, he pretends that he has a lavish social life, but ultimately realizes that he’s all alone most of the time.
A sewer rat named Sid suddenly invades his house through the pipes. He’s loud, gross and forcibly makes himself at home while simultaneously destroying the house. While Roddy is lonely, he’s not lonely enough to want him for company, so he tries to trick him back into the sewer through the toilet only to be knocked into the bowl and flushed away by Sid.
Now lost in a sewer, Roddy finds himself in a massive underground city for rats. He wants nothing more than to get back home. In his efforts to do so, he meets Rita, a rough and tumble rat who is being harassed by The Toad, who wants to steal her father’s precious ruby. However, he has much more nefarious plans outside of a little ruby.
Breakdown: Flushed Away tends to get shit on a lot. That’s my lone potty humor joke of the review. I’m sorry.
However, I have noticed that most of the time when this movie gets slighted, it’s in passing. Some reviewer will bring this movie up randomly as being terrible when talking about something else. Because of that, I was dreading this review. However, I realized that I’ve never bothered to go and read a full review of this movie, which I didn’t bother to do until I had nearly finished the movie because I enjoyed it a hell of a lot more than I expected, so I was wondering why the movie got such a bad rep.
What I found was mixed but mostly positive, with the main issue the reviewers were having with the movie being the exact same one I had.
I’d almost believe this movie was a punchline for many people based solely on the main plot and the title yet didn’t actually watch this movie or give it a chance.
Let me start off with the positive. The humor in this movie is top-notch. Despite the title, there’s very little in regards to toilet humor, and so many of the gags, even the running ones, work so well that I found myself laughing out loud numerous times, which is a difficult goal to accomplish with me.
I particularly enjoyed the running gag of the slugs, which easily could’ve been one of the most annoying things in this movie, but were hilarious every time they were on screen. I also loved the legion of frogs under Le Frog’s command. The mime frog in particular was a riot.
There are some groan-worthy jokes, and some slightly offensive-ish jokes like the French frogs immediately surrendering or the American rat being gross and rowdy, not understanding that the World Cup is soccer not American football, but these were few and far between.
Also, despite the fact that Aardman switched to a CGI format for this movie, it still very clearly holds the traditional Aardman claymation aesthetics. And yes, you get the unreasonably large always-grinning mouths. The animation really doesn’t suffer due to this change of format. In fact, it kinda benefits in the area of freedom of movement. Considering the massive world they had to animate, plus the added complication of water, I fully understand why they went this route. Plus, with movies like Arthur Christmas under their belt now, we know that Aardman definitely has talent in the CGI world.
The voice work was also quite good with Hugh Jackman voicing Roddy, Kate Winslet voicing Rita and Ian McKellen voicing The Toad.
Now onto the negatives. While the villain characters had their funny quirks, the protagonists are rather cut and dry.
You have Roddy, our main lead, who is basically any fish out of water (or rat out of cage?) story. He’s miserable in his current life, is thrown into a new one that he initially dislikes, he longs to go home, but his adventure getting back shows him that a life in the other place is much better and chooses to live there forever.
Reviewers kept bringing up that Roddy was meant to be parodying James Bond, and, I’m sorry, I don’t get it. He does dress up in a tuxedo, briefly parody James Bond and watch a spy movie at the start, but that’s it. Outside of having a villain to fight and going on an action adventure, there’s nothing else to imply a connection to James Bond.
Then you have Rita, the ‘I’m defying gender stereotypes’ clear love interest. She does more to move the plot along than Roddy does, and she’s kinda badass, but she doesn’t do much to differentiate herself from a trope that, ironically, is trying to escape a trope.
Being fair, neither character is unlikable in the slightest, which is an easy pitfall for characters like this. Rita starts out as a bit abrasive, and Roddy has his selfish and kinda jerkish moments, but these are usually justified in some way.
Sid is somehow turned into a good guy out of nowhere in the third act, even though he started as one of the grossest, dumbest, rowdiest dill holes I’ve ever seen. Also, he tried to kill Roddy in the first act, so what the hell?
The weakest area of this movie, however, is in the story. It’s just….not all that good. It’s boringly cliché at best and stupid at worst. This is definitely one of those movies that’s good because of its parts not the sum of its whole.
While we have a ton of great quick gags that more than make the movie worth watching, as well as a bunch of action that is fun to watch, when the movie slows down and reminds you of the plot, it loses your attention badly. The plot with Roddy is so predictable it practically hurts. Just by reading the synopsis, you can tell EXACTLY what will happen.
The one facet of his story that I was wondering about is if he’d really be willing to leave his owner, because even though we only get little snippets of his owner, a little girl named Tabitha, she takes great care of him and seems to love him a lot. I’d feel bad for her knowing Roddy would just up and leave her for a life in the sewers.
This is where Sid comes in because after he suddenly heel turns in the third act, Roddy leaves him to be Tabitha’s new pet. Sid promises he’ll be good to her, but you can’t trust this guy. He tried to kill Roddy earlier. He also basically destroyed the house by making a massive mess. Not to mention, this is a damn sewer rat. A filthy, stinky, fat sewer rat.
Do you honestly believe 1) She’d be fooled into thinking this is Roddy? (Spoiler alert: She is, somehow. So either she’s an idiot (she even ignores the massive mess around him) or she really cares so little about Roddy that she can’t tell him apart from any other rat, which doesn’t mesh from what little we know about her.)
2) If she doesn’t, that she’d be cool with losing Roddy forever and just adopting this new rat?
And 3) that her rich, pristine parents or even Tabitha herself would be cool with her adopting a disgusting, smelly sewer rat that infiltrated their house while they were away?
He does kinda get comeuppance in the end, but eh. I’m quite certain nothing actually bad would happen to him, but….again, eh.
On the…I guess we’ll call it the ‘James Bond’ plot, we have a story that’s both kinda dark and silly/immature at the same time.
The main villain here is The Toad, and I’m not being lazy, that’s his name. His big plan is to commit genocide against all the rats in the city by opening the sewer flood gates during half time of the World Cup, which is when thousands of people will all flush at the same time. All of the rats will drown in a tidal wave of piss water while the frogs and toads take over the city and he can repopulate with a massive collection of tadpoles that he…somehow created by himself?
See what I meant about being dark but also really silly/immature? Roddy and Rita got tangled in this mess when they both got captured by his men in an effort to retrieve a ruby Rita’s father passed down to her. The Toad believed it was his, she stole it back, so he hunted her down and took it back. In their escape from The Toad, they steal the master cable, which is necessary for this plan to work, so then he starts chasing them for that.
I will mention that, while the ruby is ultimately not very important to the overall plot, it did lead to the one story element that actually surprised me a good deal, but I won’t spoil it.
Overall, this movie is a truckload of really good gags with a decent amount of solid action piled on top of two stories that just don’t hold up very well. It could be a lot worse, it’s more like all the good stuff is sitting on cheap plywood more than wet toilet paper, but I was certainly waiting for the next gag to come along whenever the plot started to slow down. The first act in particular was a bit of a chore to get through.
Not to mention, they felt the need to include a small bit where Roddy lies about his situation to Rita and tries to pretend his life is fine, which was painful to watch for all the wrong reasons. I truly, sincerely hate awkwardness and lying plotlines. They never cease to suck all of the enjoyment out of a scene or movie. Luckily, this was shortlived.
There were some serious moments that I thought were really good, like Roddy being so happy that there was someone else to say ‘goodnight’ back to him that he kept saying it over and over to Rita, and Roddy making good on his promise to give Rita not only a ruby but also an emerald to help replace something she lost.
This is also one of those movies that I imagine would get better on repeat viewings due to little background jokes you might have missed the first time out.
Also, very minor, but I hate that this is one of those movies that ends on a dance party. That trope needs to die.
Recommended Audience: While there is some potty humor here and there, it doesn’t fare nearly as badly as you might expect from the title. There’s some kinda dark humor and mild violence, but nothing terrible. I was actually somewhat insulted that this movie essentially got a free pass by Common Sense Media for being kinda crass, yet a fun, good kids movie when they absolutely trashed Monster House. Ya know, the movie that doesn’t include a plot about goddamn genocide by piss water. Fairness is fun. 6+
Images courtesy of AnimationScreencaps.com.
Final Notes: Supposedly, Dreamworks meddled a lot with this movie after the US failure of Wallace and Gromit. Aardman is a company that works best when left to their own devices, and even though the details of what exactly went on behind the scenes are unclear, the tension between the companies was enough for this movie to be their final venture with each other. Aardman left Dreamworks and never looked back.
Aardman had a brief relationship with Sony Pictures Animation, but have been bouncing between studios for newer projects since 2012.
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