Flushed Away (2006)

Rated: PG
Grade: AAAA=A
Budget: $149 million
Box Office: $65 million US, $111 million Int’l, $70 million DVD

Directed by: David Bowers, who previously worked on Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run, and Prince of Egypt, and Sam Fell, who’s done nothing I recognized.
Starring: The voices of Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Ian McKellen, Jean Reno, Andy Serkis, and Bill Nighy.

A privileged but lonely suburban rat winds up being flushed down to the sewers of London, where he must find his way back home while trying to foil a dastardly plot by the Toad-underlord to destroy Ratadilly Circus and navigate a burdeoning romance with the sewer-savvy Rita.

Entertainment Value: A
This is (other than Wallace and Gromit) one of the few Dreamworks Animation films which I thoroughly enjoyed. For one thing, there are dozens (if not hundreds) of inside references and jokes that are hilarious and generally not vulgar. But what I loved about these comic points is that they will sail well over the heads of children without thereby neglecting to include tons of fun stuff that the kids will grasp. This is the first of their movies that I thought successfully accomplished the dual-demographic goal that has become formulaic in modern kids’ movies. Even in watching it again to grab audio clips, I discovered new gags in the artwork and dialogue. Massive amounts of creativity went into this movie, and it shows in the $149 million budget.

Superficial Content: A
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sexuality A, Violence B, Language A, Illegality A
I sound like a broken record. I sound like a broken record. What does the MPAA have against giving movies a G rating? I have no problem letting my not-quite-four-year-old son watch this movie, which he loved. There are scenes of peril, including the danger of freezing rats alive like the former enemies of the Toad-villain, and in one hilarious scene a grandmother apparently throws her panties at a singer who she mistakenly thinks is Tom Jones. In one scene, Roddy falls repeatedly onto objects between his legs. Oh, yeah, and an albino rat makes a joke about the biological effects of eating curry by referencing the Japanese Flag, which I though was hilarious. I’m beginning to think that Looney Toons might have to be PG-13, according to the MPAA.

Significant Content: A
This is where the movie really shined. Flushed Away is clearly an endorsement of large families over small ones, and it presses the case precisely where middle-class Americans are most foolish: the notion that a few kids with wealth is better than a lot of kids with vastly reduced means. Stealing is bad, dastardly plans are bad, French ninja frogs are bad (get it, French frogs?), and you need some difficult experiences to grow up and become a real man…er…rat.

Artistic/Thought Value: A
For whatever reason, I loved the throwback style of animation being done here because it’s modern highly-computerized but meant to look like old school claymation. My only quibble artistically was with the fact that the rats looked so little like rats. This was, by no means, Ratatouille.

Discussion Questions:
~Who has a richer life in this movie: Roddy or Rita? Do you think this movie is trying to say something about family size? Is it trying to send this message to people who choose to have only one or two children?
~What is the significance of the ruby that turns out to be fake? When Rita says she and her dad had been working their whole life to find that fake ruby, does this reinforce the message about not making money an idol over people?
~The Toad and Roddy both lose their positions in posh circumstance and both attempt to recapture them. So what makes them different?
~Does the parody of the Ratadilly doomsday prophet bother you? Do people like that strike you as authentically Christian or deranged?

Overall Grade: A
If only for the slugs singing, this movie is worth watching. I had avoided it because it seemed far less neat than Ratatouille, but I’m glad I overcame my instincts here. Both are very good.

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