A Valiant Effort at Mediocrity

by Alan Rapp on August 19, 2005

in Movie Reviews 

Do you have an obsession with how pigeons were used during World War II?  Yeah, me neither.  Valiant is a fine little film for senior citizens who like animated features with talking birds; unless that’s you you’d probably do better with a Disney straight to video release.

2 Stars

As the credits rolled I wondered, not for the first time, who exactly this film was made for.  It seems odd to think that Disney designed an animated feature specifically with senior citizens in mind, seeing how catering to such a small niche market doesn’t exactly mesh with the conglomerate that bought ABC and opened Euro-Disney.  This would be a good film for grandparents who lived during WWII to take their grandchildren to and talk about afterwards; sadly the rest of us will end up feeling more than a little bored.

A War Movie For Kids?  Disney Style???

The year is 1944 and pigeons are being used to relay vital messages from the Allied Command to the forces deployed in the field.  The Axis Powers have deployed hawks to capture the pigeons led by Von Talon (Tim Curry).  Valiant (Ewan McGregor) is a young undersized pigeon who feels the need to serve his country and enlists.  His platoon contains the “John Canyesque” Bugsy (Rick Gervais), the nerdy Lofty (Pip Torrens), and the musclebrain twins Tailfeather (Dan Roberts) and Toughwood (Brian Lonsdale).  Our heroes are trained and sent of with the heroic Gutsy (Hugh Laurie) on their first mission to deliver messages vital to the war effort.

The scenes of the training are much what you’d expect from a Disney version of movies like Stripes.  Not much new or of any interest; pigeon and hawk alike are stockpile characters stolen from other flicks.  The hawks themselves are fine, but they aren’t given the menace of previous Disney villains.  Instead they are used more for comic relief, especially Talon’s two helpers (Michael Schlingmann and Rik Mayall), which makes taking them seriously as a threat is almost impossible.  Even when Valiant and his comrades are put into what should be dangerous situations we never really feel they are in any serious danger.  It’s bad when you end up rooting for the Nazis, but we simply don’t care whether these characters live or die and I will admit after an hour of this tedious story I was gleefully hoping for a hawk to make himself a pigeon sandwich.

The movie starts out promising with a British pigeon black and white propaganda film and the capture of Mercury (John Cleese).  Cleese has some of the films best lines as a P.O.W. captured and interrogated by the hawks.  Too bad his part is so small; his wit could have been used in other scenes.  The story keeps you vaguely interested as it seems to promise better things to come.  We are shown several moments where we expect the film to takeoff and fly, but this bird never really gets off the ground.


It seems odd that this was released in theaters; it has the feel of recent Disney straight to video releases.  The movie just never reaches the level you would expect from a Disney film.  While I applaud the studio for making a different type of animated feature, the result is less than what one would have hoped for.  Most younger children aren’t going to get the gist of the film without detailed explanation, adolescents will avoid it like the plague, and most adults under sixty will be bored out of their minds.  Sadly, it was made about four decades too late to have any cultural interest other than in Britain, where I expect it will find some modest success.  Although not terrible, I can’t think such a mediocre movie was what such a great cast was assembled to produce.  Too bad a group of actors like this was wasted on this turkey.

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