Valiant (December 5/05)
Valiant doesn't really hold up all that well when compared with other recent computer-animated efforts, as it's clearly been geared towards a much younger audience - though there are a few bits here and there that'll undoubtedly fly right over the kiddies' heads. This emphasis on silliness, coupled with a distinct lack of plot (the movie feels awfully long in parts, though it runs a short 75-minutes), all but cements Valiant's status as a mildly engaging but thoroughly forgettable piece of work.
Set during the Second World War, Valiant revolves around the battle between a group of evil falcons (led by the villainous Von Talon) and an assortment of pigeons. One such pigeon, a runt named Valiant (voiced by Ewan McGregor), enlists in the
Royal Air Force Homing Pigeon Service, along with the scrappy, fast-talking Bugsy (Ricky Gervais). After a brief training period, the two find themselves sent on a dangerous mission to retrieve an important message from the front - where Von Talon and his henchman have already eaten scores of other pigeons.
Screenwriters Jordan Katz, George Webster, and George Melrod pepper Valiant with an assortment of admittedly humorous war references, including a black-and-white propaganda film urging pigeons to enlist and the requisite training montage (in which the pushy drill sergeant forces the birds to work out with barbells made of fruit). Likewise, Gervais is a lot of fun as the scheming Bugsy and it's hard not to be won over by a pair of French resistance mice - but it quickly becomes clear that all these individual elements aren't quite going to add up to cohesive, completely entertaining whole (the finale is appropriately thrilling, though).
Having said that, it might just be worth sitting through the entire film if only for John Cleese's hilarious turn as a pigeon prisoner-of-war (Von Talon attempts to break his spirit by subjecting him to a rousing bout of yodeling from his minions).