Better than Average
Animation, Comedy, Fantasy
Year of Release:
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Some pigeons eat crumbs, others make history.
One would suspect that the highest ambition in the life of a pigeon would be to find someone kind enough to throw it some bread-crumbs and, if they’re lucky, perhaps a few sunflower seeds as well. Not so with Valiant (voice of Ewan McGregor). For him, the thing he wants the most is to serve his country, Britain, as a messenger pigeon.
The messenger pigeons are respected and revered as heroes in the pigeon society, and when the general visits his hometown in search of army recruits, Valiant literally falls on his face in his eagerness to sign up.
After a period of vigorous training, it seems Valiant and his troop are the last hope for Britain and must, at all costs, make their way across the English Channel, past the nasty German falcons, and into France, where they must receive a message and take it back to Britain. It seems that the fate of Europe rests in their claws, for in that message is the location of Normandy Beach.
Positive content: Valiant is a courageous young bird, eager to fight and willing to give his life for the cause. Because he is so short, he is ridiculed by the other pigeons, who think he won’t have a chance in the war, but he doesn’t give up and goes for it anyway.
As the troop nears their final destination, Valiant takes on the role of leader when the others are too afraid and often volunteers to do the dangerous parts of their mission.
Bugsy (voice of Ricky Gervais), the first pigeon Valiant meets in London, is a crude and cowardly fellow, who often belches and is generally crude. Moreover, he is a dishonest and tries to do everything he can to get out of the army. Valiant admonishes him, telling him that he also is afraid, but that they must go on, because going back means having to face the thing we fear anyway, when it will already be too late. Bugsy has a change of heart and although he remains crude and dirty, he finds a sense of courage and honor and also becomes a hero of the story.
Sex/nudity: Other than a few short kisses, nothing particularly objectionable. All of the pigeons seem to be overcome with a great desire to impress the pretty nurse Victoria, and Bugsy in particular is the leader in this, even throwing out an innuendo or two (nothing too crude and will undoubtedly go over most kids’ heads).
Language: nothing, other than mild insults and colorful phrases (like “Shut up!”)
Violence: lots and lots and LOTS of slapstick violence. The poor birds can’t seem to do anything without crashing into windows, poles, lanterns, each other, etc. In the opening scene, menacing falcons swoop down on pigeons, leaving nothing but feathers. The leader of the falcons, Von Talon (voice of Tim Curry), is scary and mean, as are his henchmen. Usually his methods of torturing his prisoners are unique and rather tame to say the least, but at one point he threatens a captive with a nasty-looking syringe—not a scene for those with needle phobias.
Also, we briefly see planes exploding in the air and on the ground during a dogfight, and also some bombed out buildings. However, I think that if your children could handle Finding Nemo, they’ll be able to handle this, as I felt they are both on the same level, as far as violence and scariness go.
Conclusion: Messenger pigeons played a large part in World War 2. Indeed, some words at the end of the film tell us that 32 pigeons were given awards for bravery and service in war. This is a historical fact, whether or not it is true that it was pigeons responsible for giving Britain the go ahead for Normandy. Personally, I found this movie somewhat lacking in the charm and wit of such recent computer-animated attempts as “Finding Nemo” or other Pixar works, but it was refreshing to see a kids’ movie without crude jokes (i.e. “Shrek 2”) or too many fart-jokes.
Also, the animation is usually stunning, and the humor very British, but usually very funny. It brought to mind the good old days, when animated movies gave kids moral heroes to root for, and this movie is indeed a Valiant attempt to do just that.
Violence: Mild / Profanity: Minor / Sex/nudity: Minor
Year of Release—2005 / USA release: August 19, 2005 (wide).