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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

FLUSHED AWAY (2006)

You miss the tactile touch of the plasticine models from the very first shot in this computer animated feature from the good folks @ Aardman, home of Wallace, Gromit and CHICKEN RUN/’00. But once the company severed ties with Dreamworks Animation, after this feature underperformed @ the box-office, Aardman quickly went ‘back to the future’ with their mischievous kiddie-fare series, SHAUN THE SHEEP/’07, telltale fingerprints & all. On this big-budget feature, you can almost feel the creative staff catering to ‘story notes’ (real or imagined) from Dreamworks’ honcho Jeffrey (the Shrek-meister) Katzenberg, pushing for a more frenetic pace & pointless pop references. Not that FLUSHED is without its delights. Though it never leaves London-town, this is basically a variation on the city mouse/country mouse fable, with a decidedly bland set-up (with echoes of HOME ALONE and TOY STORY) & even blander main characters. (The underground mini-city that exists just past the sewer is no MuchkinLand of possibilities, either.) But the animators make things work anyway, getting plenty of solid laughs out of the frog & slug chorus lines. And, bonus points to Ian McKellen who makes the evil toad mastermind a wicked vocal impersonation of Simon Callow at his most orotund. (They even gave Callow ‘Special Thanks’ in the end credits. For being a good sport?)

DOUBLE-BILL: The relatively simple pixilated animation of SHAUN THE SHEEP (see above) were made for the less demanding technical specifications of broadcast tv, but neither that, nor their short running times (about 8 minutes each) make them any less enjoyable. (And the farmer’s dog, obviously a close relative of Gromit, is almost as remarkable an actor.)

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