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voice cast: Ewan McGregor, Ricky Gervais, John Cleese, Tim Curry, and John Hurt

director: Gary Chapman

76 minutes (U) 2004 widescreen ratio 16:9
EIV DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
At the height of World War II, the Royal Homing Pigeon Corps are the heroes of every loyal British bird. Their daring flights across the Channel bring vital messages from occupied France, and undersized woodpigeon Valiant is determined to enlist. Finding his way to London, he and his new friend, Trafalgar Square shyster Bugsy, join up, only to find themselves flying the most dangerous mission of the war. German falcon Von Talon has already wiped out the best flyers, and the delivery of a vital message now rests with a straggle of misfit pigeons, and the plucky Valiant...

Despite its wartime setting, this British animated feature is aimed at a very young audience. Beyond a little of what DVD packaging calls 'mild peril', there's nothing here that should upset your four or five-year-olds, and there's plenty of fast-talking comedy and slapstick to keep them amused. If you're planning to watch it with them, however, you might be yourself less engrossed. Valiant doesn't really follow the DreamWorks/ Pixar route of including jokes for every age group, and by the time the pigeons have collided in midair during training for the tenth time, you could find your mind wandering.

What it does provide, however, is good old-fashioned family entertainment. Valiant, voiced by a chirpy Ewan McGregor, is cute and endearingly brave; Ricky Gervais' Bugsy provides a lot of the humour, and turns out to be a hero too. The story moves along at a good pace, expertly combining action and comedy. The deliberately simple animation is slick and easy to follow, cleverly imagining a parallel society of birds living alongside humans.

There's even something for the kids on the DVD extras. Among the usual documentaries, trailer, and footage from the voice recording sessions, there's a brief animated 'blooper reel', and a simple three-level game for the kids to play on the DVD player, comprising training exercises with the Homing Pigeon Corps. This isn't the ideal movie for a group of adults, but if you're looking for something to amuse the kids and granny over the Christmas period, this charming animation is just the thing.

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