directed by Gary Chapman
(Walt Disney, 2005)

I don't really understand the lukewarm reaction to this film, as I found Valiant to be an excellent animated feature. The story is both interesting and compelling, the voice actors do a great job, there's plenty of comedy from start to finish, and I thought the animation itself was quite good.

There's too much emphasis these days on high-tech, fancy animation -- sure, it can be very cool, but a cartoon with a good story and wonderful characters doesn't need the fanciest new animation. In fact, a good story can get lost in too much CGI wizardry, and I for one like a more traditional look. I don't mean to say the animation here is simplistic, because it's not; it's just not as fancy as some viewers apparently wanted it to be. This isn't The Matrix; it's a movie-length cartoon.

The setting is 1944. With World War II still raging, the Royal Air Force Homing Pigeon Brigade, having suffered extensive losses delivering important messages to and from enemy lines, is looking for a few good pigeons. Valiant (voiced wonderfully by Ewan McGregor) is determined to leave the nest and prove himself, especially if it means serving alongside heroes such as the celebrated Gutsy (Hugh Laurie). No one thinks he can make it (he's not even "yea" high, for one thing), but he's determined to prove everyone wrong and do his part in the fight for freedom. Arriving in London, he meets up with a smelly old con pigeon named Bugsy (Ricky Gervais), who sort of accidentally signs up for service alongside him. They both fit right in to the band of misfits who make up Squadron F (Lofty, the intellectual, the blue-blood and two brothers sporting more brawn than brain). Unfortunately, it falls to this lot -- even before their training is complete -- to take on the mission that, if successful, may well win the war for the Allies. It will be highly dangerous, though, as they must avoid the enemy's deadly falcons, led by the formidable Von Talon (Tim Curry).

Is it predictable? Yes, of course it is. It's a family-friendly, G-rated cartoon, after all. Any young child can understand the story. The only problem I had with the film was its rather short running time of 76 minutes. The big scenes at the end do feel a tad rushed, and one can only wonder why they couldn't add a few more minutes to round things off a little more effectively. This, however, is a small complaint, as I found this movie immensely entertaining.

I was especially pleased by the note at the end of the film acknowledging the important contribution different animals actually did perform in World War II -- especially carrier pigeons, who won 24 Dickens Medals for their heroic service. I would encourage Valiant fans to read a little about such avian heroes as GI Joe, who saved the British forces occupying an Italian town from American bombing; Cher Ami, who (despite being shot in both the chest and the leg) delivered a message that saved forces trapped behind enemy lines from devastating friendly fire, and many other unsung non-human war heroes.

by Daniel Jolley
13 May 2006

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