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Overall Rating

Awesome: 2.78%
Worth A Look: 8.33%
Just Average: 25%
Pretty Crappy61.11%
Sucks: 2.78%

4 reviews, 12 user ratings

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by Peter Sobczynski

"This really is for the birds. (Hey, if you have a better one, I'm all ears)"
2 stars

The new animated film “Valiant” is a low-key riff of standard-issue WW II movies and the main joke–indeed, the only joke for the most part–is that all of the characters, save for a couple of mice, are played by CGI-animated birds. It was no doubt inspired in part by the commercial and artistic success of “Chicken Run,” a film which managed to blend those very same elements into an enormously appealing film for viewers of all ages. “Valiant,” on the other hand, has the ingredients but has no idea of how to properly combine them. The result is a film with a story that little kids will find to be too obscure and older viewers will find too juvenile and which is told with a visual style that viewers all ages will find drab and uninteresting

The conceit of the film, set in May, 1944, is that the most courageous Allied soldiers are the members of the Royal Homing Pigeon Service, an elite squadron of carrier pigeons who take to the skies to deliver top-secret messages while avoiding the deadly falcons employed by the bad guys. (No, the word “Nazi” isn’t mentioned once in the film.) As the story opens, a squad is attacked en route to deliver an important message and the leader, Mercury (John Cleese) is taken captive by the evil Von Talon (Tim Curry, whose presence usually inspires thoughts of an entirely different RHPS.) At the same time, a scrawny young pigeon named Valiant (Ewan McGregor) yearns to be an RHPS member but he is constantly reminded that he is too small to join. However, after a series of attacks, he is allowed to enlist and, with con-pigeon Bugsy (Ricky Gervais) by his side, goes through training under the tutelage of a gruff-but-unlovable sergeant (Jim Broadbent).

Valiant and his squad, though hardly the most qualified platoon, are chosen to accompany the ultra-heroic Gutsy (Hugh Laurie) on a mission to deliver a message of vital importance to the front. Unfortunately, Gutsy is shot down over enemy lines (not as tragic as it sounds) and Valiant is forced to take command and lead his comrades to their rendezvous. Along the way, they are helped by a pair of French Resistance mice who are wise in the ways of culture (one offers to “break the bread and cut the cheese”) and sabotage (in the film’s funniest bit). Before long, both Bugsy and the message are captured by Von Talon and his men (birds?) and only Valiant, with his small stature and big heart, is capable of saving the day (and much more, once we hear the contents of the message).

As a half-hour short or television special, I can see how “Valiant” might have a slight appeal for those who have been raised on a steady diet of WW II films. However, even at a short 76 minutes (according to IMDB, the British version lasted 109 minutes), the conceit runs out of gas long before the end credits roll. There are occasional bright spots–there is an amusing glimpse early on of a pigeon propaganda film and I must confess that the French mice were pretty funny in their brief appearance–but the filmmakers never seem to know if they are trying to make a spoof of war movies or a relatively straightforward one that just happens to be populated by CGI birds. Either way, the basic subject matter is still going to prove to be over the heads of most of the smaller children in the audience. By comparison, “Chicken Run” contained plenty of references to films like “The Great Escape” that would appeal mostly to older viewers but they were always in the service of a story that was easy enough for younger audiences to grasp as well.

A more pressing problem is that “Valiant” isn’t much from a visual standpoint either. To be fair, this isn’t an official Disney film–it was produced by a British company and is only being distributed by the company in America–but even so, this is a drab and dull-looking film. The colors are all muted and the characters pretty much all look the same. There is an arresting visual every once in a while but it just doesn’t contain the colorful pop that most people associate with contemporary animation. This wouldn’t be so bad if it seemed to be done as a specific artistic choice but it looks more like it was designed to be as bland and forgettable as possible–imagine a 76-minute-long screensaver and you have a pretty good idea of the visual style of “Valiant”

“Valiant” is a film that isn’t as bad as it is inexplicable and if nothing else, the conceit is freaky enough to give it a leg up over the crass and soulless likes of “Robots” or “Madagascar” or “Shark Tale.” The problem is that no one involved with the film seems to have had any idea of what to do with the conceit and not even the contributions of a talented voice cast are able to quite disguise that fact. It might play all right on home video, which might be more hospitable to its modest charms, but anyone planning on taking a gaggle of kids to the multiplex had better be prepared to deal with a bored and restless bunch–both kids and adults.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12750&reviewer=389
originally posted: 08/18/05 23:58:38
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User Comments

8/24/13 Dr Devil Average animation and has nothing special 2 stars
1/06/09 Bethany Cox I'm 16, and I liked it! Ricky Gervais played himself, Tim Curry was brill,Jim Broadbent fun 4 stars
10/21/08 Shaun Wallner Was'nt all that great! 2 stars
5/16/06 Ouchy wouchy bang bang Heavy Going. Sorry but your attempt to beat Pixar failed. 2 stars
4/03/06 Mike loved it,great family film, so much fun,totally funny 3 stars
3/27/06 Brian Meyer Take Chicken Run and ANTZ, roll them in cow patties, and you've got this! 1 stars
3/13/06 tatum A complete surprise, and ten times better than "Shrek" 4 stars
9/26/05 rafi Funny ! 5 stars
8/19/05 BJ Mediocre look and feel, wasted actors and ho-hum story line. Ewan probably regrets doing it 2 stars
8/16/05 ES From the creators of Shrek comes a movie not worthy to lick an ogre's boots= meh 3 stars
8/12/05 Ray Pretty good 4 stars
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  19-Aug-2005 (G)
  DVD: 13-Dec-2005



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