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Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2006 09:05 pm

Filthy and kid-friendly

Flushed Away will take you to the depths

Flushed AwayRunning time 1:20Rated PG

Despite being a big fan of their Wallace and Gromit adventures, I was less than excited about seeing Aardman Animation’s newest feature, Flushed Away. Having a film set in the sewer just put me off from the start. The sight of animated critters floating down dingy, dirty waterways and the ever-present creepy slugs in the film’s trailer gave me nothing but the willies.

Well, as the old adage says, you shouldn’t judge an adventure that takes place in the sewer by its manhole cover. Though the story is simple, directors David Bowers and Sam Fell demonstrate a great deal of panache and eye for detail that demands repeated viewings. Not only are their frames chockfull of eye candy, but the visual allusions that abound also attest to the makers’ sense of wit and intelligence.

Roddy (voiced by Hugh Jackman) starts out as one happy rat. Pampered by his owner, a rich young girl, he enjoys all of the luxuries a kept rodent could want. And when the family is away this rat does play, golfing frozen peas from the ottoman onto the vast carpeted floor, taking in movies on the big-screen television as he lounges about, and engaging in all sorts of high-tone antics. Regrettably, though, Roddy is soon parted from this idyllic life and sucked into London’s sewers, a place where Bowers’ and Lord’s imaginations have run wild. Their netherworld is a filthy re-creation of London, complete with a miniature London Bridge and Piccadilly Square. The details of this metropolis are impressive and make for a consistently engaging sight.

The situation that Roddy finds himself in is far less inspired. Longing to return to the surface world, he gets mixed up with a crime lord, his henchmen, and a hitman. Although the film is nothing more than a prolonged chase over the bulk of its running time, the jokes fly fast and furious — and prove a worthy addition to the impressive visuals. Perhaps most entertaining of all is the chorus of singing slugs that pops out throughout the film.

Those slugs sure are creepy, but man can they belt out a tune.

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