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Valiant (2005)

Some pigeons eat crumbs, others make history.

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 109 minutes

US Certificate: G UK Certificate: U

Pigeons nowadays might be regarded as little more than chubby disease-ridden rats of the sky, but believe it or not everyone in Blighty owes at least a small debt of gratitude to their cooing beady-eyed kind. You see pigeons – a bit like women, actually – suddenly found themselves in gainful employment when the Second World War broke out and our boys needed a helping hand in carrying important written information through the Luftwaffe-infested skies. ‘Valiant’ – the first major independent feature film release from the little-known Vanguard Animation studios – is quite possibly the first ever CG salute to such feathered heroes.

The tale concentrates on the pint-sized wood pigeon of the title (voiced by Ewan McGregor) and his rise from average bird-on-the-street to national hero in the battle against those Nazi swines (or, in this case, falcons). Teaming up with Trafalgar Square soap-dodger Bugsy (Ricky Gervais), he heads for France to rendezvous with the resistance, collect a vitally-important “message”, and make it back to British shores before Gerry has the whole world goose-stepping and listening to nothing but the greatest hits of David Hasselhoff.

It has to be said that the quality of animation in ‘Valiant’ is a little cold and clinical in comparison to the rich, sumptuous designs that the big budget Pixar productions like ‘Finding Nemo’ or ‘The Incredibles’ have spoiled us with. And – despite the welcome presence of Mr Gervais – the use of humour in the script isn’t quite up to scratch (there are only so many bird-based puns you can listen to before they start to lose their chortle value, which is exactly why I’m resisting any temptation to use the term “dovetail” in describing the plot).

Thankfully though, an edge-of-the-seat climax ensures this otherwise middle-ranking wartime adventure ends on a high note. If you’re expecting a movie to rival the current conveyor belt of animated big-hitters, ‘Valiant’ may well leave you a little under-whelmed – certainly Robots, another 2005 toon featuring McGregor on vocals, is a superior piece of work in pretty much every department. But, as far as nice-but-forgettable kiddies’ flicks to fill the Easter holidays go, you won’t go far wrong with a trip to watch this particular birdie.

It's Got: Some ridiculously obvious lines, including: “I’m not an egg any more, it’s time I left the nest!”

It Needs: To have been made a couple of decades ago, if only so that we could have had the great Walter Pidgeon doing some of the voiceover work.


This Brit-packed tale of feathery heroics might not have the bods at Pixar losing sleep any time soon – but it’s a Valiant effort.