Fans of Wallace and Gromit may be puzzled by a visual disconnect in "Flushed Away. " They will certainly, however, be delighted by the unrelenting...

Share story

Fans of Wallace and Gromit may be puzzled by a visual disconnect in “Flushed Away.” They will certainly, however, be delighted by the unrelenting whimsy and fast-paced gags of a story that never slows down to think about where it’s going next. Thankfully, it never needs to, since a hugely talented creative team has already leapt three steps ahead to figure out what precise detail will keep the story whizzing, the quips crackling and the action hurtling.

Instead of the typical style of clay and plasticine stop-motion animation of Britain’s famed Aardman animation studio, we get a completely computer-generated fantasyland with all the hallmarks of Aardman drollery. “Flushed Away,” also produced by DreamWorks, is a Hollywood spectacle and easily necks over the most recent batch of animated anthropomorphic hits.

Movie review 3.5 stars

Showtimes and trailer

“Flushed Away,” with the voices of Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Bill Nighy, Jean Reno, Shane Richie. Directed by David Bowers and Sam Fell, from a screenplay by Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais, Chris Lloyd, Joe Keenan and Will Davies. 82 minutes. Rated PG for crude humor and some language. Several theaters.

A spot-on creative decision was made to give the movie a look that replicated the live-action Aardman technique — blocky foreheads, tacked-on appendages, slightly jerky eye and mouth movements. Water effects that couldn’t have been accomplished with claymation are mesmerizing.

The setup sequence shows our hero, pampered pet rat Roddy St. James (voiced by Hugh Jackman), being flushed down the loo of his mansion in London’s Kensington neighborhood “up top” to the underground sewer world of Ratropolis. The background intricacies of this wonderfully reimagined version of London are spectacular.

Ratropolis is inhabited by throngs of mice and rats who go about their business heedless of the danger being calculated upon them by the Toad (Ian McKellen), a snobbish, rotund amphibian. His sense of entitlement is still strong, long after his own brusque disposal down the toilet from the pampered world of a pet at Buckingham Palace.

The Toad is also feuding with a spunky rat-trepreneur named Rita (Kate Winslet), whose little boat, the Jammy Dodger, zips around the underground pipes with dizzying camera moves capturing it all. It’s another inspired element of “Flushed Away” to create scenes that duplicate and even enhance set pieces that are staples of real-life actioners (such as the “Mission: Impossible” franchise).

A standout sequence follows the Toad’s henchrats Whitey (Bill Nighy) and Spike (Andy Serkis) — in full-on British gangster-movie caricature — as they chase the Jammy Dodger on their own contraption, using every Rube Goldberg device to grab Rita and Roddy (who are naturally attached in romantic rivalry). Later, the Toad calls in his mercenary cousin, Le Frog (Jean Reno), and his own troupe of henchtoads to do the job right.

The French frogs are clichéd to the max. One is a mime, and he relays the Toad’s criminal demands to Rita and Roddy via a video cellphone strapped to the mime’s chest. Never has such uproarious wit screamed by so fast, leaving the audience still laughing at what happened two or three gags ago.

With a beautiful look and rapid-fire jokes whose cleverness and corniness blend perfectly, “Flushed Away” will no doubt be dredged again and again for all those who missed half the funny stuff the first time down. A great time for all.

Ted Fry: