The film was released in US on 3 November 2006 and in UK on 1 December 2006 and was distributed by Paramount Pictures.1 Despite receiving generally positive reviews from critics, Flushed Away underperformed at the box office, prompting DreamWorks to end their partnership with Aardman.
Roddy St. James (Hugh Jackman) is an upper class pet rat who makes his home in a posh Kensington flat. While his owners are away on holiday, Roddy plays around the house. A common sewer rat named Sid (Shane Richie) comes spewing out of the sink and decides to stay, especially as England are playing against Germany in the World Cup final. Roddy schemes to get rid of Sid by luring him into the "jacuzzi", which is actually the toilet. Sid isn't fooled and instead throws Roddy in and flushes him away into the sewer. There, Roddy discovers a city resembling London made out of various bits of junk, and meets Rita Malone (Kate Winslet), an enterprising scavenger rat who works the drains in her faithful boat, the Jammy Dodger. Rita despises Roddy initially, but ends up taking him along, while her arch enemy The Toad (Ian McKellen) sends his rat henchmen, Spike (Andy Serkis) and Whitey (Bill Nighy), after her because she had stolen back her father's prized ruby a long time ago. The Toad loathes all rodents to the point of hateful obsession, and plans to have Roddy and Rita frozen with liquid nitrogen inside an icemaker. The pair escape, and Rita takes a unique electrical cable that, unknown to everyone but the Toad, is required to control the floodgates.
Roddy finds that the ruby is a fake and breaks it in front of Rita, enraging her, for she cannot now get the money she needs for her large family. Roddy offers her a real ruby if she takes him back to Kensington. Accepting the offer, the pair first stop to visit her family before setting off. During Roddy's stay, he overhears a conversation that causes him to think that Rita had double-crossed him, so he steals the Jammy Dodger. When Rita catches up to him, she is able to clear up the misunderstanding. The pair evade Spike and Whitey pursuing in a remote-controlled toy boat, with their accomplices on eggbeater jet skis. Incensed at his minions’ repeated failures, The Toad sends for his French cousin; an infamous, if somewhat laid back, mercenary known as Le Frog (Jean Reno). During this scene, it is revealed that The Toad was once Prince Charles' pet, but was replaced by a pet rat, and subsequently flushed down a toilet, resulting in his hatred of rodents. Le Frog and his subordinates intercept Roddy and Rita and retrieve the cable, but the duo use a plastic bag to lift themselves out of the sewer (snatching away the cable during the ascent) and get Roddy home, though the Jammy Dodger is destroyed.
Back home, Roddy pays Rita the promised ruby and an emerald, then proceeds to show her around his house. She at first believes he has family in the home, but noticing his cage, she realises he's a pet. Roddy tries to pass Sid off as his brother, but Sid and Rita know each other. Rita tries to persuade Roddy to come with her, but he is too proud to admit that he is lonely. By now, they have fallen in love but have not told each other their feelings. She departs, both of them broken-hearted, but is soon captured by The Toad. Talking to Sid about half-time, Roddy pieces together The Toad's plan: to open the gates during halftime of the World Cup, when all the humans will most likely be using their toilets, causing a great flood and drowning the rats and their underground city in sewage. Toby could then use the depopulated city as a home for his own tadpole offspring. He gives Sid his cushy position and has him flush him back to the sewers to find Rita and save the city. Together, they defeat The Toad and freeze the wave of sewage generated by the flushing of countless toilets during half-time with liquid nitrogen before it drowns the entire rat population.
Rita and Roddy build the Jammy Dodger Mark Two and set off in her with Rita's entire brood. A newspaper article reveals England had lost on penalties. Later while the credits start, Roddy's former owner Tabitha returns home with a new pet cat, which scares Sid.Hugh Jackman as Roderick "Roddy" St. James, a pampered but lonely pet rat living in a Kensington apartment with a wealthy English family. He is flushed down the toilet by Sid into the sewers.
Kate Winslet as Rita Malone, a street-wise scavenger rat and the oldest child of a large family. She is the captain of The Jammy Dodger.
Ian McKellen as The Toad, a haughty amphibian wanting the entire rat population to be killed off so he can make room for his hundreds of offspring.
Jean Reno as Le Frog, The Toad's French cousin. He masters martial arts and is the leader of a team of hench-frogs.
Andy Serkis as Spike, one of the Toad's two top hench-rats. Being the Toad's hench-rat is Spike's first job, despite him being only a teenager. He is the quicker-witted and most aggressive of the two.
Bill Nighy as Whitey, another of the Toad's two top hench-rats. Whitey is an albino rat, once working in a lab and he is Spike's partner. Unlike Spike, Whitey is sympathetic and less vicious, but is also ignorant and gullible.
Shane Richie as Sid, an over-weight and lazy rat from the sewers. He is an acquaintance of Rita and her family, and the one who flushed Roddy down the toilet into the sewers.
The idea for a film about rats which fall in love in a sewer was proposed by animator Sam Fell during the production of Aardman Animation's Chicken Run (2000). At the time, Aardman encouraged everyone at the company to come up with ideas for features for the DreamWorks partnership. Fell, development executive Mike Cooper, and producer Peter Lord then developed the concept into a story before pitching it to DreamWorks. Lord described the pitch as "The African Queen with the gender roles reversed." Comic writing duo, Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais were contracted to write the script for the film, which went under the working title of Ratropolis.
Traditionally, Aardman have used stop-motion for their animated features, but it is complex to render water with this technique, and using real water can damage plasticine models. It would have been expensive to composite CGI into shots that include water, of which there are many in the movie, so they chose to make Flushed Away their first all-CGI production. This is the third of three Aardman-produced films released by DreamWorks. Aardman's experience with DreamWorks during the making of the film led to a split between the two studios.
On Halloween (31 October) of 2006, the Flushed Away: Music from the Motion Picture soundtrack was released.
Coinciding with the film's release, a video game adaptation was released on the PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, Game Boy Advance, and on the Nintendo DS. Although having heavily negative reviews from critics, the game received an Annie Award for best animated video game.
Flushed Away was released on DVD 20 February 2007. It included behind the scenes, deleted info, Jammy Dodger videos and all new slug songs. It was released in the UK on 2 April 2007, where it was also packaged with a plasticine 'Slug Farm' kit.
Flushed Away has a 72% rating on Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 6.7/10 based on 130 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads "Clever and appealing for both children and adults, Flushed Away marks a successful entry into digital animated features for Aardman Animations." Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film a score of 74, indicating "generally favorable reviews."
Todd McCarthy of Variety gave the film a negative review, saying "As directed by David Bowers and Sam Fell, first-time feature helmers with long-term Aardman affiliations, the film boasts undeniably smart and eye-catching qualities that are significantly diluted by the relentlessly frantic and overbearing behavior of most characters; someone is always loudly imposing himself upon another, to diminishing returns of enjoyment." Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a B+, saying "Flushed Away lacks the action-contraption dottiness of a Wallace and Gromit adventure, but it hits its own sweet spot of demented delight." James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film three out of four stars, saying "It's better than 90% of the animated fare of the last few years. It's refreshing not to have to qualify the movie's appeal by appending the words, 'for the kids'." Jan Stuart of Newsday gave the film two out of four stars, saying "Despite the efforts of five writers and Aardman's trademark puppets, with their malleable eyebrows and cheeks bulging like those of a mumps sufferer, none of these characters are particularly endearing." Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post gave the film a positive review, saying "Flushed Away, Aardman's first computer-generated cartoon, does away with the clay but leaves the craft and emotion intact, resulting in a film that earns its place among the Aardman classics." Peter Hartlaub of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film three out of four stars, saying "The short attention spans of directors David Bowers and Sam Fell are mostly forgivable because the movie is filled with so many entertaining characters."
Richard Corliss of Time gave the film a negative review, saying "Deficient in the comedy of reticence discouragement that is Aardman's (or maybe just Nick Park's) unique strength. I don't want to say the Englishmen were corrupted, but I think they allowed their strongest, quirkiest instincts to be tethered." Ted Fry of The Seattle Times gave the film three and a half stars out of four, saying "Fans of Wallace and Gromit may be puzzled by a visual disconnect in Flushed Away. They will certainly, however, be delighted by the unrelenting whimsy and fast-paced gags of a story that never slows down to think about where it's going next." Ty Burr of The Boston Globe gave the film two and a half stars out of five, saying "Kids will probably be in stinky-sewage heaven with the new computer-animated critter comedy Flushed Away, but even they may realize they're up the proverbial creek in a boat with a faulty motor." Jack Mathews of the New York Daily News gave the film two and a half stars out of four, saying "Though Flushed Away duplicates the stop-motion, clay animation look of Aardman's earlier Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit, it was made using computer software and its liberated action sequences are truly dazzling." Kyle Smith of the New York Post gave the film three out of four stars, saying "How this thing got made in Hollywood is a mystery, but I laughed at most of it, especially the mean stereotypes about the French and the even meaner stereotype about England's soccer team."
Flushed Away collected $64,488,856 in the United States, which was below the average of other CGI films from DreamWorks Animation, and $111,814,663 from international markets for a worldwide total of $176,319,242. The film opened to number three in its first weekend, with $18,814,323, behind Borat and The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause. Produced on a budget of $149 million, poor box office reception resulted in a $109-million write-down for DreamWorks Animation, and in a termination of the partnership with Aardman Animations.