Starring: Voices of Ewan McGregor, Ricky Gervais, Jim Broadbent, John Cleese, Tim Curry, Rupert Everett
Director: Gary Chapman
ALSO! Check out where it ranked in our 2005 Year in Review.
“Valiant,” the last gasp by a major studio to pilfer money from the pockets of well-meaning parents trying to keep their children entertained, is barely worth the effort of getting to the theater. Walt Disney may have distributed this latest digitally animated picture, but this British-produced film by Vanguard Animation about World War II carrier pigeons has little in common with Disney’s past animated features.
The movie centers around pipsqueak pigeon Valiant (Ewan McGregor) and his desire to “do his part” in the war effort against Germany. After getting mixed up with a filthy pigeon named Bugsy (Ricky Gervais), he and Valiant enlist in the Royal Air Force Homing Pigeon Service. After a short period of training in which they join a motley crew of pigeons representing every English stereotype, they are sent to a war-torn France to retrieve a message and return with it, all the while eluding Falcons representing every German stereotype.
As is custom with nearly every animated film released these days, “Valiant” features an incredible voice cast. McGregor, Gervais (“The Office”) and John Cleese are just a few of the actors that adequately lend voices to the characters in this film. It is mostly thanks to this voice talent that “Valiant” remains mildly entertaining, despite featuring the same painful formula found in nearly every animated movie released by a major studio. Also helping “Valiant” are some fairly exciting moments of action, a short running time to keep in line with children’s attention spans, and thankfully, the film stays clear of tired pop culture references found in animated features like “Shrek” and “Madagascar.”
Despite these attributes, however, “Valiant” is not a film any responsible parent will want to waste time with. It is not just that the animation seems shoddy compared to other films of this genre, but the fact that the movie feels like little more than thinly veiled war propaganda; the timing of which seems in poor taste when young English and American men are actually dying in a war of questionable merit. And especially in the wake of the London train bombings, when emotions are running high and children and young men may feel a sense of duty to their country, this unapologetic English jingoism seems almost sinister in its complete whitewashing of the realities of warfare.
The DVD release of "Valiant" is pitiful, with only a blooper reel and three interactive games for the kids, but considering how bad the film did in theaters, it's not very surprising.