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It’s flush with family fun review

Roddy, right, a pampered pet mouse living the posh life in his owners’ Kensington flat, thinks he has finally gotten rid of Sid, a common sewer rat who has unceremoniously invaded Roddy’s home, by luring him into the “whirlpool” in DreamWorks Animation’s and Aardman Features’ computer-animated comedy “Flushed Away.”

mct photos

Roddy (left) and Rita (right) find themselves in the clutches of henchrats Whitey (holding Roddy & Rita), and Spike (far right) in DreamWorks Animation’s and Aardman Features’ computer-animated comedy “Flushed Away.”

I

n the new animated comedy “Flushed Away,” Aardman Animation’s traditional Britisher-than-thou dry humor has been seasoned with bodily function and crotch jokes. Perhaps this is the price of mainstream acceptance.

But if the film lacks the comedic purity of such earlier Aardman efforts as “Chicken Run” and “Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were Rabbit,” it remains a lively, funny romp that ought to please just about everybody in the family.

Our hero is Roddy (voiced by Hugh Jackman), the pet rat of a little girl in a posh London neighborhood. Roddy is pampered and secure and has never had to scramble for survival.

So when he’s flushed down the toilet and finds himself in the sewers of the great city, he’s completely out of his element. There’s an entire civilization flourishing in these subterranean streams, all of it overseen by The Toad (Ian McKellen), a criminal mastermind who’s part Shakespearean ham actor and part Scorsese mobster.

Roddy is caught between The Toad and a spunky girl rat, Rita (Kate Winslet), who operates a tugboat service and possesses a priceless pink gem stolen from The Toad.

There are numerous chases — inventively staged and often terribly funny — and some peripheral characters with delightful running gags.

Particularly delightful are the singing slugs who serve as a Greek chorus, often breaking into helium-voiced song. They’re like the penguins in “Madagascar.”

In contrast to the many stars who take voice work and then simply phone in their lines, Jackman gives a complete vocal performance, growing shrill during moments of panic or affecting an air of suave sophistication. Most of the time you’re not even aware that it’s Jackman. His efforts elevate “Flushed Away” to sublimely funny levels.

For that matter, McKellen and Winslet also seem to have dropped every shred of self-consciousness and sound like they’re having fun. “Flushed” is Aardman’s first computer-generated film after decades of stop-action clay animation. Not that you’d know that right away.

Although it was created digitally, the characters and settings have been designed to look as if they were made out of clay. The animators even have developed programs that put big human fingerprints and other “flaws” on the characters’ surfaces.

Initially these computer-generated characters don’t have quite as much personality as those rendered in laborious frame-by-frame clay animation. But “Flushed Away” grows on you, and by the time it reaches its slam-bam conclusion, you’ve bought into this fantasy world.

IF YOU GO If you go

What: “Flushed Away”

Starring: Voices of Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet and Ian McKellen

Directed by: David Bowers and Sam Fell

Rated: PG for crude humor and some language

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

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