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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Valiant
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // G // December 13, 2005
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted December 11, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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In 10 Words or Less
Computer-generated mediocrity with a British accent

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Animation
Likes: Ewen McGregor, Ricky Gervais, Tim Curry, Hugh Laurie, John Cleese
Dislikes: Kids movies without subtlety
Hates: Wasted potential

The Movie
When you have an action comedy about World War II, starring Ewen McGregor, Ricky Gervais, Tim Curry, Hugh Laurie, John Cleese, John Hurt and Jim Broadbent, you are seemingly set for a good time. But without a proper script, you start behind the eight ball. Put that incredible cast behind microphones, instead of in front of a camera, and you've handicapped yourself a bit. Wrap it all in middling computer-generated animation, and you've got a recipe for a boring movie. On the positive side, it's just 76 minutes long, saving at least part of your life.

McGregor gives voice to Valiant, a tiny pigeon looking to serve his country the only way he can, as a message deliverer for the British. Of course, he's a bit too small for the job, but with recruits hard to find, he's sent to boot camp, along with a few other misfits. Chief among them is Bugsy (Gervais), a rude, crude pigeon, who's so dirty his best friends are the flies who buzz around him. Truthfully, the film could have been named Bugsy, as more screentime is devoted to his gaseous, slapstick comedy than to Valiant's heroics.

The movie follows traditional war-movie conventions, as the rough-hewn rookies are put through their paces by a gritty old veteran (Broadbent), before being sent out into the field before they are ready. Of course, the vicious enemy, led by Curry's Nazi falcon, Von Talon, has enough personality quirks that they let down their meticulously disciplined guard at just the right time.

Gervais is likely the most entertaining part of the movie, but that's simply due to him being on-screen so frequently that he's bound to have a funny line sooner or later. The next best part is Cleese's P.O.W. pigeon, who, under the influence of truth serum, becomes a blithering drunk. In his case, less was more, as he's barely in the movie. After that, there's a lot of thankless performances, aided by a script that seemed more interested in getting from point A to point B, than anything that happened in between. Even the opening scene, which is supposed to set the tone of the film and establish the plot, seems rushed.

If the storyline is empty, it's matched by the animation effort, which pales in comparison to other recent CG productions, like Chicken Little or anything from Dreamworks or Pixar. Flat, un-textured surfaces are just the start of a look that ranges from unfinished to boring, with anything not alive looking like a boring model. Meanwhile, the pigeons, the key performers, don't look so hot, with the animators either unable or unwilling to animate their feathers to any real extent. The minor characters of the mice get better treatment with their fur.

The one place the movie got it right is during the scenes in France, where suddenly the animation became detailed and artistic. It almost feels like this section was completed first, and drained the animators of all their creativity. Or perhaps, this is the only part of the script that inspired them. It's certainly the only part that inspired this review. Everything else plays like filler.

Valiant is a one-disc release, packaged in a standard keepcase, with an two-sided insert that lists the chapter stops. The DVD's animated, anamorphic main menu provides options to play the film, select scenes, check out bonus features, adjust languages and view "sneak peeks." Language options include English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 tracks in Spanish and French, while subtitles are available in English, Spanish and French, along with closed captioning. The scene-selection menus have still previews and titles for each chapter.

The Quality
Despite a less-than-amazing level of CG animation, the movie looks great on DVD, with a sparkling anamorphic widescreen transfer. The detail on display is top-notch, thanks to a crystal-clear and spotless presentation, while the colors are perfect. Though the whole movie is solid visually, the scenes in France, with their darker sets and shadowy undergrounds, are simply gorgeous on this disc. If the animation was of a higher Pixar-level quality, this would be a DVD worth truly boasting about.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack doesn't keep up with the excellent images, instead checking in as a solid "good." Support for the music fills the surround speakers in certain scenes, pumping up the score, while leaving room for some sound effects. Surprisingly, the war scenes didn't carry nearly the impact that would be expected, while the mix was barely dynamic at all. For the most part though, the dialogue is clear and easy to hear, despite the accents.

The Extras
Disney didn't go all out with this disc. In fact, barely any effort was made at all. Less than a minute of cheesy bloopers, done in the style of the original Toy Story clips (but without the humor), are included, along with a kid-friendly Valiant Training Challenge Game. The first two levels are simple matching exercises, followed by a remote-clicking test, ala "Dance, Dance, Revolution." Most kids getting this far will walk away in frustration.

Also found on this disc is a handful of trailers for other Disney flicks.

The Bottom Line
An adult can't help but feel disappointed after watching this rather simplistic movie, and I can't imagine most children will enjoy a WWII war storyline that's a bit over their heads. As a result, Valiant is stuck in cinematic limbo, unable to appeal to any audience, even animation geeks, who will be turned off by the unpolished look of the first half of the film. The DVD delivers the movie in beautiful shape, but skimps heavily when it comes to the extras. Fans of cartoons might give this a rental, along with those who love the cast, but owning this movie is just not necessary.

Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.

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*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.

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