by Kevin Carr
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|| MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Ewan McGregor as VALIANT
Ricky Gervais as BUGSY
Tim Curry as VON TALON
Jim Broadbent as SARGE
Hugh Laurie as GUTSY
John Cleese as MERCURY
John Hurt as FELIX
Directed by: Gary Chapman
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I have to say that I am sad to see the demise of the standard 2-D ink-and-paint animation. After the less-than-stellar performance of “Home on the Range” at the box office, Disney closed its feature animation department in lieu of developing computer generated features.
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Although “Valiant” isn’t an in-house Disney production (rather, “Chicken Little” was the first in-house, non-Pixar Disney CGI film), it does represent the new baseline for animated kids features. In the past, only a few companies could afford the time and expense. There was Pixar, and there was DreamWorks. And everything they did was a hit.
Not so any more. “Valiant” wasn’t a hit. In fact, it really laid an egg this summer at the box office. That doesn’t mean it was a bad movie. It just wasn’t a hit.
I think history will remember it as the usher to the mid-list CGI feature. In 2006, there are more computer animated films being released than ever before. Practically every studio has thrown its hat into the ring. Look for more “Valiants” than “The Incredibles” in this mix. Right now, Hollywood may think that if it’s CGI, it’s gonna sell. However, in a year or two, they’ll come to the realization that movies are movies, and they sink or swim depending on their own quality.
“Valiant” tells the story of a puny pigeon who joins the Royal Air Force during World War II. Their job is to deliver messages to the Allied forces overseas. However, the Germans have the Falcon on their side. Valiant is entrusted with a special mission, and he must beat the Falcon to save the day.
The fact that the story has a certain basis of truth in it adds a bit of charm to the movie. Pigeons were indeed enlisted for Allied support in World War II. In the ongoing struggle to stay one step ahead of the Axis with coded messages, sometimes pigeons were the only way to get a message abroad. In fact, some pigeons were even decorated for their efforts.
Ewan McGregor lends his voice for the lead pigeon, and he’s left with a really strong supporting cast that never really shows off like they should. If you wouldn’t look at the names listed, you may miss the fact that some awesome British actors like Hugh Laurie and John Cleese also do voices. The best characters are the white mice from the French resistance that seem to be a knock-off of “The Rescuers.”
The story is simple enough, but the direction is a little muddled. Maybe it’s because Valiant is too easily the underdog. The rag-tag group of pigeons trying to make a difference seems a little too corny. We’re asked to believe in Valiant, but we’re never given much of him in terms of character aside from the fact that he’s not even “yea high.”
The DVD has limited special features, including a set-top training game in which you can guide a pigeon through an obstacle course. There’s also a set of bloopers, which really aren’t that funny. There was a time when CGI bloopers were funny – and they still can be. But they were so well done by Pixar in earlier films that additional attempts elsewhere don’t quite cut it.
“Valiant” is a cute flick if you have young children, but it seems like it would have found a better home on television or straight to video. The film runs a bit long, even though it’s only 76 minutes. Unfortunately, it seemed that the half-baked “Valiant” was taken out of the over a little too early.
Specifications: Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (1.85:1). French and Spanish language tracks. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.