Parents who take the little kiddies to see the first CGI film from Aardman Studios, the place that brought us the claymated "Wallace & Gromit," should be fully prepared to explain to them exactly what is going on and why anybody with mild scatological sensitivity is probably vomiting in the aisle.
The story is about a house pet, a rat named Roddy (Hugh Jackman), who gets flushed down the toilet and ends up in a rat city located in the sewer. There he meets Rita (Kate Winslet), a headstrong female rat who operates a boat, kind of like Humphrey Bogart in "The African Queen," and does battle with an evil Toad (Ian McKellen) who plans to wipe out rat city.
When Roddy first gets flushed down the toilet, there's a joke that's a direct rip-off of a joke in "Caddyshack." Roddy drops into the sewer and grabs a half-opened Baby Ruth bar. Yes, sometimes a candy bar looks like a turd, a gentle reminder that despite the fact that the sewer water looks good enough to drink, there's a lot of tremendously disgusting crap floating around in there. It's also an acknowledgement by the filmmakers that they know it's a sewer and they're just going to have a single, indirect reference to the million pounds of fecal matter and be done with it. Unfortunately, I had just sunk my teeth into an ambitious portion of a super-sized Baby Ruth from the snack bar and found myself suddenly unable to swallow. Don't kids have enough poo-related problems already?
Toad's plan involves flushing away the entire rat city by opening up a sewer door during halftime of the World Cup, which is obviously the point when 75% of London heads for the crapper. What a great image for the entire family to share: an entire city being washed away in crap. I'm sure this film will do well in New Orleans. Of course, when the water rushes down the pipes and Rita and Roddy must save the day, it looks more like Hawaiian surf than the London sewers after a city-wide flush. London smells bad enough above ground. Can you imagine the smell in the sewer?
And just how many more animated "house pets in the real world" stories do we need? Every animated film is about exactly the same thing. It's like one vast conspiracy to teach us the value of life through the plight of lost animals. In this case, the value of life is taught to us by lost animals swimming in poo.
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