Flushed Away

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The blokes at Aardman Animation are responsible for the delightful “Wallace & Gromit” films, which are lovingly rendered in Claymation. But for the studio’s latest flick, they have done the unthinkable: They have abandoned stop-motion animation for that newfangled computer animation!

The result, “Flushed Away,” proves what has always been clear to people with common sense but which has eluded many studio executives, which is that the audience doesn’t care whether the film was made with hand drawings, computers, clay models, or puppets, as long as it tells a good story. The story in “Flushed Away” is simple and not particularly original, but it’s told cleverly (with a screenplay by five writers and direction by animation veterans David Bowers and Sam Fell), with daffy British humor, split-second sight gags and smart dialogue.

Roddy (voice of Hugh Jackman), a pet mouse in an upscale London apartment has his life interrupted by the arrival of a sewer rat named Sid (Shane Richie). Adding to his vexation: While trying to flush Sid down the toilet, Roddy gets himself flushed instead. I guess if it isn’t one thing, it’s another, when you’re a pet mouse.

The upper-class Roddy now finds himself mingling with the common mouse, rat, and other subterranean creatures in an underground city built specifically for mouse-sized animals and made from trash and debris cast away by the humans. He wants only to get back to his home in Kensington, of course, but he must rely on a mouse named Rita (Kate Winslet), an adventuresome mercenary who pilots a boat through the sewers, to help him.

Rita, meanwhile, is being pursued by goons working for The Toad (Ian McKellen), a Bond-style villain whose goal is the eradication of all rodents. She has something he needs, and he’ll stop at nothing — NOTHING! — to get it.

It’s a pretty uncomplicated plot, which is fine, because the story’s sparseness leaves more room for silly, fast-paced jokes. There’s Rita’s grandmother mistaking Roddy for Tom Jones. There’s a cockroach reading Kafka’s “Metamorphosis.” There’s Le Frog (Jean Reno), The Toad’s French cousin who brings a team of frog ninjas (and, for some reason, a mime) to help capture Rita and Roddy. And there’s a group of slugs who pop up often to sing songs and provide general amusement.

The film is no classic, sure. It doesn’t tug the heartstrings the way the very best animated films do, nor are the characters timeless. But they are funny and lovable, and the jokes fly so fast that there’s barely time to appreciate them all. Plus, there are singing slugs, and I don’t know what else you could want.

B (1 hr., 24 min.; PG, some crude humor.)

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