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Disappointing, But Has Its Moments
Flushed Away represents something of a Dork Age for Aardman. Some of this can be attributed to its distributor, DreamWorks Animation, which was in the midst of its own Dork Age (Kung Fu Panda was still two years away), which engaged in much more Executive Meddling than they had for Chicken Run or Wallace and Gromit. The result was a rushed production that went through many rewrites and was cutting and adding subplots even by the time trailers were released. The DreamWorks influence can be seen more clearly in this film, with much more pop-culture related humor, toilet gags (literally), and background references to mainline DW films (An "Alex the Lion" doll in the background, Shrek dvds, etc.).

Despite the budget being 5x higher than for Wallace and Gromit, the film often looks cheaper due to its use of CGI, which, being Aardman's first CG film, looks very dated even for the time. Additionally, the mix of the claymation-style figures against the CG creates an uncanny effect. The characters are weak as well; though Jackman, Winslet and Mc Kellen's voices give the characters a shot of energy, but they're not very well written and the plot and relationships they have are thin and confusing. The jokes are very hit-or-miss, ranging between classic Aardman and Dork Age DreamWorks.

Finally, the film nearly shoots itself in the foot with the slugs. Their presence kills any kind of tension in a scene and are a source of constant irritation. And they are on-screen for almost half the film. Given the success of Gromit, you'd think Aardman would have learned the value of silent comic relief.

That said, the film has many classic Aardman traits, and when they shine they really shine. A number of characters, particularly Le Frog, are memorable and score a lot of the film's biggest laughs. It's not the worst film under the DreamWorks banner, but is a clear product of a Troubled Production. Fortunately, both studios made a turnaround shortly afterwards, and Aardman's new partnership with Sony seems to have allowed Aardman more creative control, resulting in Arthur Christmas and The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!, both of which represent a revival for the studio. If you're not a diehard Aardman fan, however, I would skip Flushed Away.
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