'Valiant' proudly invalidates the conventional assumption that pigeons are stupid and very limited animals. In this imaginative and fast-paced British animated adventure directed by Gary Chapman, pigeons are heroic creatures stopping at nothing to serve and support their country during the hard times it faced back in the early 1940's, during World War II. The outcome of the dramatic war literally "lies in the wings" of the pigeons, as they help the Allied Forces develop strategic plans by bringing them confidential messages from the French resistance.
Meet Valiant (voiced by Ewan McGregor), a little, hyperactive and vivacious pigeon from the British countryside, whose big time dream is to join the highly esteemed Royal Pigeon Service, a military unit training volunteers as "pilots" and message carriers to facilitate communication between the Allied troops. After reassuring his worried mother that he will do just fine out there on the battlefield, Valiant leaves his home for the RPS recruitment office in London, where he immediately makes the accidental acquaintance of a chubby and clumsy street pigeon named Bugsy (Rick Gervais).
After enrolling and meeting the rest of the team, Valiant and Bugsy are brought to a military base where they have to put up with a merciless Pigeon Training Sergeant (Jim Broadbent), who guides them through a hard-hitting and strenuous training. Although it seems at first as if Valiant were not qualified for the job, his strong determination nevertheless provides him with the required strength to keep on. Soon after follows the day of his first big mission, which consists out of picking up an important message from the French. Only, none of the new "pilots", including Valiant, are fully trained yet to embark the dangerous operation
Although it may at first sound like your ordinary 3-D animated family film about a bunch of cgi-animals trying the impossible to save the world, 'Valiant' is quite a different, and above all, new experience. It is solid fun for everyone, and finally an animated action-comedy again that provides enough innovation and an appealing, never-before-seen premise. First of all, the story is set in 1944, shortly before the end of the war, which is rather an unusual period of time for a computer-generated kid-flick. Second, the film also creatively emphasizes on how pigeons helped the armies establish better communication with partners or allies.
Also, 'Valiant' clearly diverts us from our standard, negative view of pigeons: the plot shows that a pigeon is not that dumb an animal after all. The "freedom" pigeons in the movie are smart and speedy, courageous and hilarious. The hero of course, is little Valiant, who works very hard to become really big. He values friendship and teamwork, and always comes up with a clever plan when the situation abruptly aggravates. And the situation does indeed get tricky, because shortly after Valiant and co. fetch the targeted message, they are followed by General Von Talon, a deadly and vicious falcon who tries to intercept the valuable "package"
Diversity is one of the positive words that can be used to best describe 'Valiant': from the opening on, en route for the big finish, the plot is loaded with a lot of fun, suspenseful twists and a globally refreshing sense of humor. The pigeon training, for instance, is a first highlight: instead of using miniature iron weights, Valiant and his compatriots use apples. As dormitories, they use tin cans, and in order to defend themselves against potential enemies, they are trained how to attack with their beaks. The second part of the movie features more action and suspense, as Valiant and Bugsy track down General Von Talon in order to retrieve their message and free a captured pigeon.
With its feature length of only 75 minutes, 'Valiant' is almost too short, giving us the impression that some of the sequences are a little rushed or just too easy. If Valiant for instance, got into more threatening trouble, the plot would have been filled with even more suspense, and some additional, intriguing complexity. Then again, the filmmakers did a very inspiring job on the character development. Besides Valiant, the little one with big plans, Bugsy is another adorable figure, since he will eventually discover that having a true friend is more important than acting on your own. Therefore, the messages are crystal clear.
Sweet faces, vibrant pursuits, an action-packed showdown between good and evil, a considerable amount of slapstick, and lots of flat-out funny dialogues and satisfying effects; these are all elements contributing to the considerable atmosphere of this overall entertaining summer movie. Furthermore, at the end of the screening I attended, I heard a little spectator yelling: "Mom, Valiant was the best one, and the coolest!" Considering that such films indeed intend on turning their main characters the heroes of the audience, I'd say: pigeon mission accomplished! (Grade: B-)