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VALIANT – George Fenton

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The first British film to jump on the CGI animation bandwagon, Valiant is an entertaining (if a little un-ambitious) movie which does for pigeons what Chicken Run did for fowl. Set in a highly stylised England at the height of World War II, the film follows the exploits of the titular Valiant (voice of Ewan McGregor), a diminutive wood pigeon who dreams of joining the Royal Homing Pigeon Service and doing his bit for King and country. Valiant gets his opportunity when, after meeting the dashing Captain Gutsy (Hugh Laurie) at a rally to drum up new recruits, he decides to go to London to enlist. Teaming up with Cockney wide-boy pigeon Bugsy (Ricky Gervais), Valiant and his new cohorts find themselves in basic training under the gruff Sergeant (Jim Broadbent), and before long are embarking on their first mission – to retrieve and return with a secret message lost in occupied France. However, in order to complete the mission, they must face the evil General von Talon (Tim Curry), a ruthless falcon with a penchant for leather capes and Third Reich regalia, who has captured and eaten pigeons before…

Coming on the back of massive global successes such as Shrek 2 and The Incredibles, it was almost inevitable that Valiant would struggle to impress in this world-class company. The animation is competent enough, Gary Chapman’s direction occasionally shows some nice visual flair, and voice cast is extraordinary (in addition to McGregor, Broadbent and Curry it also features John Cleese, John Hurt, Rik Mayall, Olivia Williams and even Jonathan Ross) – but the whole thing is just so English, it sometimes stretches the bounds of credibility, even for an Englishman like myself. The whole thing has a stiff upper lip, jolly hockey sticks stereotype to it, playing off nationalistic clichés like there’s no tomorrow, and giving the whole thing the air of a cartoon episode of the old British sitcom Allo Allo, even down to the bad French accents. Many of the gags fall sadly flat, or make continual use of a “colliding in mid-air” pratfall that wears thin after the fifth time. The one high point is the vocal performance of Ricky Gervais, who builds upon his persona from the Golden Globe-winning The Office to such an extent that Bugsy could have been David Brent in another life. Many of his brilliant one-liners will go over the heads of kids, but adults will recognise them as potentially coming straight from the manager’s office at Wenham Hogg.

Musically, Valiant is a tentative success. George Fenton has a successful history of WWII films, with scores such as Memphis Belle to his name. This time around, Fenton combines his orchestra with performances by the Central Band of the Royal Air Force, resulting in a work which is part Ron Goodwin, part Edward Elgar, and part Eric Coates. The main theme, the RHPS March, is a deft piece for brass band – upbeat, noble, yet retaining that slight sense of self-deprecating pomposity that always seems to be present in military fanfares. One action cue, as Valiant and his comrades evade the falcons through a cornfield, is breathlessly exciting, and there are a couple of stirring “off to war” pieces for the full orchestra which merely act as a reminder of how good this score could have been had it been written for a more serious movie. A slight love theme for Valiant and nursing bird Victoria, a brooding Teutonic theme for the falcons, and some Great Escape/Dirty Dozen style training montages fill out the proceedings – although the finale is completely ruined through the wholly inappropriate and anachronistic inclusion of the jitterbug classic “Shoo Shoo Baby” performed in a modern style by R&B stars Mis-Teeq. Where’s Vera Lynn or Glenn Miller when you need them? Going into this film, I was anticipating a score along the lines of Memphis Belle meets Chicken Run. It’s not that good, but it has its moments.

Rating: ***½

Track Listing:

  • Valiant (2:30)
  • March of the R.H.P.S (1:33)
  • Wish Me Luck (2:10)
  • Meeting Bugsy (1:01)
  • Arrival at Camp (2:47)
  • Von Talon and the Bastion (3:26)
  • Victoria and the Final Training (1:52)
  • The Eve of the Mission (Adagio) (3:56)
  • Mouse Division (4:21)
  • Decoys (2:19)
  • Re Grouping (1:11)
  • The Rescue and the Escape (12:48)
  • Winged Heroes (Adagio and Fanfare) (1:40)
  • End Titles/March of the R.H.P.S (2:59)
  • Shoo Shoo Baby (written by Phil Moore, performed by Mis-Teeq) (2:39)

Running Time: 47 minutes 10 seconds

Debonair Records CDDEB 1015  (2005)

  1. January 5, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    quisiera saber como se llama la música o pista que aparece cuando en la pelicula de valiant el alcón que manda a los otros 2 tortura con una MUSICA GRASIOSA al pichón que está en una jaula

  1. September 25, 2015 at 5:43 am

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