Suitable yet uninspired. That about sums up Valiant, a children's film parents may find themselves wishing that they liked much more than they actually do. The UK-produced, Disney-distributed, computer-animated film is set among carrier pigeons in the RHPS (Royal Homing Pigeon Service) during World War II. This seems like a great idea. Certainly it provides a backdrop loaded with far more import than the average cartoon.
Valiant also boasts an incredibly talented voice cast, including British stalwarts Ewan McGregor (as the title bird), Ricky Gervais, Tim Curry, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Laurie, John Cleese, and John Hurt. With all this going for it, Valiant is just . . . OK. The G-rated film contains some impressive animation, some funny dialogue, some exciting action, and some useful examples of courage and fortitude. Valiant never soars the way one expects.
While Valiant naturally anthropomorphizes its winged heroes, the film is loosely based on the real role pigeons played during World War II. Valiant is an undersized pigeon with hopes of serving in the RHPS, tasked with carrying important secret messages across enemy lines. Several disastrous missions leave the RHPS in desperate need of fresh birds, and Valiant ends up with the ragtag recruits in "Squad F." Rushed into service, Valiant and his cohorts must face the fearsome Nazi falcons (led by the one-eyed General Von Talon).
Valiant feels small when it should feel epic, but it is refreshingly sincere, with no Shrek-like cynicism or crudeness. Kids may enjoy it, although there are a couple of vague jokes that may be intended to suggest that one of the birds is gay.