out of Five
Running time: 80
Enjoyable comedy with decent animation and a superb voice cast, though it lacks the invention and quickfire gags of a Pixar movie.
Valiant is a digitally animated British film from Vanguard Studios, co-produced by the producer of Shrek and featuring an all-British cast. As such, it would make a superb double-bill with Aardman Animation’s Chicken Run, although Valiant is, amazingly, (very) loosely based on true events.
The result is an enjoyable comedy that’s aimed at kids more than adults, although there’s more than enough here to ensure that grown-ups won’t resent being dragged to see it.
Plucky Pigeon Joins The Forces
The plot is extremely basic. Plucky but short wood pigeon Valiant (Ewan
McGregor) dreams of joining the Royal Homing Pigeon Service during World War II. Encouraged to follow his dream, he wings his way to London, where he hooks up with a scruffy Trafalgar Square pigeon named Bugsy (Ricky Gervais) and the two of them are swiftly signed up and bundled off for six weeks of rigorous training with other recruits, before undertaking a dangerous mission in France.
Their mission involves rescuing a fellow Pigeon Prisoner Of War (John Cleese), delivering a vital message and eluding the deadly German Falcon Brigade, led by General Von Talon (Tim Curry).
The voice cast are superb, with Ewan McGregor providing his second animated lead in as many weeks - at least he’s allowed to use his own accent this time. There’s strong support from John Cleese, Hugh Laurie (as war hero Gutsy), Olivia Williams (as Valiant’s sweetheart, a nursing dove named Victoria) and, in particular, Jim Broadbent as the blustering drill sergeant. However, the stand-out is Ricky Gervais, who gets most of the good lines and gives a genuinely hilarious performance - he should do more voiceover work.
Film Lacks Pixar’s Level Of Invention
The animation is good throughout and there are several nice comic touches, such as the members of the Mouse Resistance (“Sabotaaaaage!”) or Victoria’s unexpected reaction on being given a flower. The soundtrack is good too - it only has a few songs but it uses them in interesting ways and also features the sight of an all-pigeon Mis-teeq performing Shoo-Shoo Baby at the end.
The main problem with the film is that it lacks both the level of invention and the rapid-fire gag ratio of a Pixar film, or even of the better non-Pixar films such as Robots, Chicken Run or Shrek. There’s also a slight pandering to American audiences - the joke about “cutting the cheese” went over the heads of the British schoolchildren bussed in for the press screening.
That said, what Valiant lacks in cleverness, it makes up for in spirit and while the film may not have you rolling in the aisles, it will at least keep you smiling for its bottom-friendly running time. Worth seeing.