Saturday, March 10, 2007

Flushed Away (David Bowers and Sam Fell, 2006)

Flushed Away (David Bowers and Sam Fell, 2006)


David Bowers and Sam Fell's "Flushed Away" (2006) is surprisingly charming, an unholy marriage between Aardman Animations (responsible for Nick Park's "Wallace and Gromit" movies) and Dreamworks that actually manages to stay afloat, despite the tidal pull of American digital animation and all its dreary clich├ęs.

It's hard to say why--there's plenty the matter with the picture. You miss the handmade quality of Park's films (yes, he's started using CGI, but only to supplement the stop-motion animation), the vast tabletop models (the aerial shots of the estate with the carnival rides spinning about in "Curse of the Were-Rabbit" were so intricately detailed you wanted to stop and stare), the (most of all) expressive plasticine forehead of Gromit (he's to silent dog comedy what Chaplin was to silent film comedy--a sweet yet somehow melancholy champion). You don't miss the tired storylines, the action sequences that ape amusement park rides or the latest extreme sports that seem standard-issue in most animated American films nowadays--all that swinging from vines (in this case, electric cords and pipes running liquid nitrogen (but what are liquid nitrogen pipes doing in a sewer?)), the motorboats chased by hand mixers, the parachuting and hang-gliding and water-skiing and whatnot (when Parks did chases, they weren't mere coaster rides, but structural frames on which to hang all kinds of sight gags). Strangely, the baggage that does comes with the digital animation is not as annoying as usual--maybe it helps that longtime Parks collaborator Peter Lord both produced and cooked up the script, with the help of Dick Clement and Ian la Frenais (both veterans who have written for Tracy Ullman and Lenny Henry), with additional material by Tim Sullivan (who has adopted both E. M. Forster and Evelyn Waugh to the big screen).

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