Has Aardman lost its edge?

The Gripe

The Gripe

November 03, 2006|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,Sun Movie Critic

About a decade ago, when reports went out that Aardman animators had signed a deal with DreamWorks, a shiver ran up my spine. The team had created the most brilliant short cartoons I've ever seen, Creature Comforts and the Wallace & Gromit series. How could these distinctive British talents with their love for eccentricity survive a partnership with corporate Hollywood?

My fears were allayed when Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the WereRabbit turned out to be as wonderful as the most ardent Aardman fans could have hoped.

But the latest Aardman/DreamWorks production, Flushed Away, which opens today has been disappointing reviewers and generating reports of friction among the collaborators.

It's begun to look like a classic story of Hollywood and European filmmakers: A studio recruits a group of overseas or cross-the-border geniuses to do their thing and lend prestige, creative oomph and maybe even cash to the company, then leans on them with a heavy hand when even a critically acclaimed, award-winning venture like the Wallace & Gromit feature fails to clean up at the box office.

The result is usually not satisfying either artistically or commercially. If studios want the imprimatur of imported art, they should give foreign artists free rein: That's how you get such wonderments as Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cauron's Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban.

In fact, in general, studios should let artists be artists - a policy that would also work wonders for underused homegrown talents like Philip Kaufman, Ron Shelton or Walter Hill.

michael.sragow@baltsun.com

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