Undersized pigeon Valiant (Ewan McGregor), volunteers for Great Britain's Royal Homing Pigeon Service during World War II, to fly message missions behind enemy lines. He joins up for training by Sarge (Jim Broadbent) along with a small band of fellow pigeons like the low-life Bugsy (Rick Gervais), Tailfeather (Dan Roberts) and his brother (Toughwood), under the command of Gutsy (Hugh Laurie). They replace their fallen comrades and help the Allies by flying vital messages across the English Channel, while evading the perilous attacks of the enemy's Falcon brigade, led by the vicious Von Talon (Tim Curry).
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Real life heroes (34 of the pigeons in WW II won special animal bravery medals) are celebrated in this debut from Vanguard Animation, an English company doing an Aardman; but with Disney as its partner, instead of Dreamworks. It's a happy and welcome debut, showing not only a genuine sense of humour and technical brilliance, but a clever ability to combine serious themes with family entertainment. The script is bound to have an authentic flavour, as script consultant was none other than Chris Bird.
Action adventure mixes with character driven story (not unlike Aardman's works) for good cinematic value. The outstanding voice cast delivers credible and multi dimensional characters (as far as that's possible under the circumstances). Notable is Rick Gervais' work as Bugsy, an odious little scam artists working tricks in Trafalgar Square, who gets dragged into the Service while trying to weasel his way out of a spot. His sleazy nature hides a heart of gold, while Valiant (Ewan McGregor) shows how he can overcome his fear to be a real hero.
The mix of comedy and action drama is well balanced, and the film is an ideal outing for the whole family, with something for littlies, adolescents and adults alike.
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VOICES: Ewan McGregor, Rick Gervais, Tim Curry, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Laurie, John Cleese, John Hurt, Pip Torrens, Rik Mayall, Olivia Williams,
PRODUCER: John H. Williams
DIRECTOR: Gary Chapman
SCRIPT: Jordan Katz, George Webster, George Melrod
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Fenner
EDITOR: Jim Stewart, Tiffany L. Kurtz
MUSIC: George Fenton
PRODUCTION DESIGN: John Byrne
RUNNING TIME: 76 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 5, 2005
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Home Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: June 8, 2006
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.