What is it about kid's films? Or, rather, what is it about kid's films recently? Computer animation has made making kid's film's easier, it seems, based on the flurry of dreck like Chicken Little and The Barnyard; the better question is if computer animation has made releasing them too easy. The case in point this week is Flushed Away, the latest collaboration between Aardman Animation (Wallace & Gromit, Chicken Run) and Dreamworks Animation (Shrek, Madagascar). Flushed Away combines two worlds - the design and aesthetic of Aardman's gentle, claymation stories with the computer-generated spectacle of Dreamworks' industrial approach to animation. The result is a curious, unfixed mix of the good, the bad and the ugly -- while Flushed Away has a certain English whimsy to it, it also has the overstuffed, joke-a-millisecond kind of excess that executives think render animated films breezy trifles, but actually turns them into leaden chores. Or, put another way: In Flushed Away, a group of minion frogs in the service of a mercenary bad guy known as Le Frog (and voiced by Jean Reno) are given the order to action; they immediately hurl up their hands and cry "We surrender!" Is this funny, to a kid? Is it funny to any grown-up whose I.Q. is higher than their belt size?

Before Le Frog enters the arena, though, Flushed Away begins as pampered house pet rat Roddy (voiced by Hugh Jackman) is left alone as his owner leaves the house for a holiday. Roddy promptly goes on a high-spirited spree, playing with all the toys and dolls and neat geegaws, but we also notice he's a bit lonely. A plumbing mishap leads loud, boisterous rat Sid (Shane Richie) to Roddy's home, and soon Roddy is plunged into the toilet and out of his paradise. In the sewers, Roddy finds a small London, underground -- a teeming Rodent-opolis of families, commerce and bustling activity. Roddy's quest to get back home brings him to the dock of ship's pilot Rita (voiced by Kate Winslet), who may be able to get him to the surface -- but that's waylaid by the manipulations of the silken-voiced mastermind known as The Toad (Ian McKellen), who's plotting to wipe the sewer rodent-opolis away. ...