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Flushed Away

Computer-animated action farce

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Genre: Computer-animated action farce

The pitch: Roddy (voiced by Hugh Jackman), a posh London pet rat, travels the bathroom plumbing down to a zany, rodent-ruled metropolis in the English sewer system. Falling into an opposites-attract romance with spunky Rita (Kate Winslet), Roddy takes on The Toad (Ian McKellen), a fly-eating boss of the literal underworld.

Money shots: The rat city uses cardboard boxes and other garbage to replicate Piccadilly Circus. The Toad proudly displays his prized "treasure" of tacky Royal Family souvenirs. Flushed Away frequently goofs on James Bond with action scenes involving staple guns as weapons and an ice maker as a deathtrap.

Pop references: Roddy's room includes plush toys of characters from The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, the previous feature from Aardman Animation. Singing slugs restage the noodle-eating kiss from Lady and the Tramp, only more than pasta gets slurped.

Fashion statement: When Roddy chooses what to wear, he lingers on a set of yellow tights that Jackman's X-Men character, Wolverine, wears in the comic books, but settles on a Bond-worthy black tuxedo.

Hit single: The opening credits set the film's bouncy tone when Roddy's owners go on vacation and he parties to Billy Idol's "Dancing with Myself."

Best line: "I find everyone's pain amusing but my own -- I'm French!" declares Le Frog (Jean Reno), leader of a skilled but surrender-prone team of commando amphibians.

Worst pun: "No slugs were a-salted during the making of this film," at the end of the closing credits.

Product placement: Roddy and Rita ride a parachute made of a plastic British Airways high over the streets of Kensington.

Hey, wait a minute: In the film's original trailer, rodent servants waited on Roddy before he took his trip down the toilet, but they've been written out of the finished film so Roddy can find love and the friends he's never had below street-level.

The bottom line: Trading Plasticine for pixels for their first computer-animated feature, Aardman downplays its deadpan whimsy for the Shrek model of pop gags and bathroom humor. Coming off a year of countless goofy-mammal movies, Flushed Away leaves the competition circling the drain. 3 stars

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