Flushed Away (2006) - Pick
Peter Pan (1953) - Pick
No, the title isn’t encouraging. But even though Aardman Animations’ Flushed Away (new on DVD) doesn’t reach the heights of demented genius of their stop-motion work with Wallace & Gromit or Chicken Run, it’s still got a goofy inventiveness that puts it in the better half of last year’s bumper crop of CGI films.
Roddy (Hugh Jackman) is a pampered pet rat who accidentally gets flushed down into the London sewer system, where he finds a rat colony modeled on the city above. Tower Bridge, Piccadilly Circus and Big Ben are rendered in rubbish and debris from the city itself. The plot revolves around Roddy’s efforts to get home, with complications involving a stolen jewel and a nefarious plot to destroy the city. Roddy teams up with Rita (Kate Winslet), sort of a seafaring Lara Croft, who’s on the bad side of the villainous Toad (Ian McKellen).
After years of cheerfully sending up British stereotypes, Aardman gleefully takes a few pokes at other nationalities, from an overbearing American tourist to the troupe of sneering, surrender-prone French frogs, one of which works mime into a martial-arts routine. Best of all, though, are the sewer slugs, who nearly steal the show with their recurring Greek chorus routine. For all that, Flushed Away settles for a more modest level than Aardman’s previous efforts. That’s still more than good enough to make it one of the better family films of the year.
New this week in an extra-laden two-disc DVD “Platinum Edition,” Disney’s Peter Pan is the definitive Peter Pan for countless children and adults. While it’s neither the best retelling of Barrie’s nursery tale or nor the best Disney cartoon of the era, it’s a decent enough example of both.
Barrie’s whimsical inventions (a St. Bernard for a nursemaid; Peter Pan’s separable shadow) and most magical moments (the Jolly Roger taking flight) work well in an animated context. The tunes are cheerful if not outstanding; “You Can Fly” is probably the most memorable of the bunch. Significant thematically is “Your Mother and Mine,” resonating with Barrie’s theme that Neverland, while a magical place, is also a rather heartless place, for there are no mothers there. (Note how even the pirates, lurking outside the Lost Boys’ hideout waiting to capture them, are affected by Wendy’s ode to motherhood, and Smee weeps uncontrollably over his “Mother” tattoo.)
As MGM did with The Wizard of Oz, this retelling of Peter Pan shifts the story’s magic from the real world to the world of a child’s imagination. Real Pan-atics won’t want to miss the 2000 A&E production starring Cathy Rigby or the magical 1924 silent version, but Disney’s take is still worthwhile on its own terms.