Twitter Plot Summary: It’s the Battle of Britain but with talking pigeons. Isn’t it? Isn’t it though?
Director: Gary Chapman
Key Cast: Ewan McGregor, Ricky Gervais, Tim Curry, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Laurie, John Cleese, John Hurt, Rik Mayall, Olivia Williams, Jonathan Ross,
Five Point Summary:
1. Five minutes in and it’s already a game of “Spot the famous voice actor.” Fun.
2. 10 minutes in and Ricky Gervais is irritating me.
3. Stereotypical French accent! Hah!
4. That message is dreadfully important. You’ll see.
5. And now for your typical action packed finale.
With a stiff upper lip, those brave carrier pigeons fly into battle in a bid to serve king and country during the dark days of World War 2. Except it’s not a particularly dark film, being aimed at the children’s market after all. Those plucky carrier pigeons are being hunted down by the apparently Nazi-owned falcons. Of course, there’s no Nazi or other German army related insignia in sight, almost as if they were worried at either offending parents or enforcing an unwanted ideology onto their young audience. Either way, they’re evil and they’re falcons, that’s all you need to know.
Valiant is a plucky (in other words, small) pigeon who wants to sign up with the Royal Carrier Pigeons and help with the war effort. After going through a rigorous (cough, splutter, nonsense) training regime, Valiant and a ragtag group of carrier pigeons are left stranded behind enemy lines with no support. It’s up to this ragtag group to pick up a message that’s important to Allied war plans, and you will discover how important by the end. There was room for the pigeons to have more of an adventure. As it is it’s Route 1 storytelling with little room for extraneous storytelling. This might have more to do with budget than anything else, but the final result is a slightly lacklustre story that needs a bit more depth to amount to anything.
The animation is generally okay, but looks cheap by comparison to its bigger budget American cousins. It’s as if they animated it in pre-vis style then either forgot to add the textures to everything or simply ran out of cash. The final sequence where they fly over the fields of Britain looks terrible if you focus on the background at any point. Tim Curry is delightfully sinister as the appropriately named Von Talon, his evil lair bathed in sinister purples, a stark contrast to the glorious British daylight where Valiant and chums are seen training. The main problem as far as our villain is concerned is that he spends the entirety of the movie in his evil lair and doesn’t emerge until the finale. In some respects you can tell that they were more interested in telling Valiant’s story over anything else, but for want of a better term Von Talon is all beak and no claws. The remaining voice cast – and there’s a lot of big names in there – are adequate if not spectacular, which given the calibre involved is a disappointment. It’s competent on the whole, but it’s like the recording sessions were completed in a hurry or the director told everybody to ramp up the silliness – it’s already got talking pigeons, we don’t need it any sillier. Still, as a British made production it’s admirable just for the fact it was made and released at all.
The end of the film describes the Dickin Medal, an award for animals that have displayed dedication to duty during wartime. According to the stats, the Dickin Medal has been awarded 64 times, half of those are pigeons. If nothing else comes from the film, it’s that animals can be essential during conflict. More impressively was finding out a cat has received the Dickin Medal. Will wonders never cease.
Favourite scene: Von Talon in the shower. Behind a curtain, obviously. Most amusing.
Mercury: You don’t eat your prisoners of war, do you?
Von Talon: I’m a vegetarian.
Mercury: And yet you wear a leather cape.
Silly Moment: Ricky Gervais’ pigeon having flatulence. Sigh.