by Kevin Taylor & r & & r & Flushed Away & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & "H & lt;/span & ey," I ask the video clerk, "was I hallucinating? I thought Flushed Away was out this week."
"It's down there on the right," he says. "In the children's section."
Hold the Wensleydale. Children's section? What an odd place for an Aardman Animations movie, eh, Gromit?
Indeed. The makers of Wallace and Gromit don't create mere cartoons... or do they, now that their British plasticine has been corrupted by Hollywood pixels?
Flushed Away, the third (and apparently last) Aardman film done in partnership with U.S. computer animation giant Dreamworks (Shrek, etc.), is the first they've done all CGI. No more clay models filmed in stop-motion.
The word on the Web is that the waterlogged, underground world of London sewers was too hard to capture convincingly in clay. This frenetic world of rats and mice and toads and slugs looks wonderful onscreen filled, as all Aardman features are, with crazy jokes and puns. And the fun of the DVD is you can slow down or stop to read newspaper headlines, funny road signs, graffiti and what's happening on the Jumbotron during the World Cup matches.
The DVD has excellent features, including a commentary track that will help you make slugs out of clay, create slug music videos, enjoy various maze and chase games, and find hidden gems. (Keep a sharp eye out for Gromit.)
The characters, especially the male ones -- upper-crust mouse Roddy (voiced by Hugh Jackman) and the two goons Whitey (Bill Nighy) and Spike (Andy Serkis) -- look very much like Aardman's plasticine characters with big, toothy mouths and expressive round eyes.
The voice work is high quality, especially Ian McKellen as the villainous Toad, who has a secret evil plan to recreate the sewers in his own image.
Don't fret about the plot. There almost isn't one, and it isn't missed anyway. The fun here is watching the characters race around their colorful world full of jokes, such as the clownfish that asks Roddy, "Have you seen my dad?"
Having slugs singing doo-wop to comment on the action is brilliant. (Rated PG)