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The British film industry, it seems, has been taking note of the immense popularity and success digital animation films render. Recently, there have been a small handful of British-born animated flicks that have tried to break new ground, and get some sort of a footing in the industry that is growing rapidly around them. Thus far however, none have made a sufficient enough impact. Hopes were somewhat higher for Valiant though, with its star-studded voice talent and its sharp, colourful visual quality. And while it did earn a nice sum of cash and garnered some good reviews, Valiant never took flight.

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Feature


Perhaps the main reason for this is as bold as brass: the majority of British-made animated flicks are just not that good (with the obvious exception of Wallace and Gromit and small handful of others), and they do not offer even so much as a fraction of the entertainment the American and Japanese-made efforts do. Valiant is a nice film, all things considered, but it is neither as charming nor as entertaining as its bigger brothers. Even the mediocre Shark Tale from DreamWorks had more substance and vibrancy at its core than this, and I thought that was one of the weakest digitally animated films produced thus far.

Still, how can you fail to enjoy a film about an under-sized pigeon with hopes to join the coveted Royal Homing Pigeon Service? Ewan McGregor voices the titular character; a brave and yet cumbersome young pigeon determined to prove himself worthy in the face of extreme odds. We all know the story by now, it’s about becoming something more than we seem (the usual Disney fare) and rising to the challenge with dignity. And that’s what this film is all about, becoming something and proving yourself. Interesting, this film actually has a basis in reality. It was inspired by real-life pigeons that used to carry messages from France back to England during the height of WWII.

Valiant nails this concept pretty well, and you do care for some of these characters. But the problem with Valiant resides not within the animation or the acting (which is probably the best part of the film), but within the story. I found it to be overly padded, and not all that captivating. I also found that the film lacked a certain amount of fun and goofiness, which in this instance made the film less entertaining and perhaps even a little less memorable. It also lacks suspense, and any form of charm is almost non-existent. Kids will probably lap it up, but in the wake of such recent classics as Pixar’s The Incredibles, I rather doubt they’ll be coming back more than just the once.

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Video


The video seems to be on the softer side of the spectrum on the whole, with some scenes even looking a tad blurry. Colours are bright and relatively pretty to look at though. One thing that you will immediately notice when the film starts is the lack of detail on the environments and, perhaps most especially, on the characters themselves. Animation-wise, Valiant just doesn’t compare to the higher-budgeted stuff, and its minimalism certain shows though. Detailing on the feathers, for example, have the appearance of rushed workmanship, instead of the passionately unique visuals that Pixar and DreamWorks offer. For what it’s worth though, Valiant is easy on the eyes, and you wont see any noise or unwanted artefacts anywhere on this image.  

Audio


The provided Dolby Digital 5.1 score may lack subtlety, but it offers plenty of good lower-end audio, as well as some strong uses of dialogue and directional effects. As good and respectable as the audio is however, it won’t leave you breathless as you’d expect from some of these action sequences. Still, while the sound isn’t going to break new ground, it serves its purpose rather nicely.

Extras


The first feature on the disc is a fifteen-minute featurette. It is one of the more generic and not particularly in-depth featurettes that usually precedes the release of the film on TV. In ‘Scene Progressions’ there are three scenes you can chose from, ‘Valiant and Mum’, ‘The Chase’ and ‘Under Attack’. This is a storyboard feature, and each scene runs for around a minute.

Next up we have the ‘Recording Sessions’, where you can select several members of the cast and watch as they record some of their lines. The minute-long ‘Blooper Reel’ serves no real purpose as it is about as funny as a dry piece of wood, while the ‘World Premier’ feature on the other hand sheds some light on most of the cast and crew though interview form. Finally, there is a theatrical trailer and an interactive game called ‘Valiant Training Challenge’.

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Overall


Valiant is a decent film, if you have the time for it. While it can be said that the best thing about it is the voice talent of Ewan McGregor, Ricky Gervais and a handful of others, it is a film that could have been so much more. Gone is the charm and whimsy that populates some of the better animated films from across the pond, and gone too is the sense of pure fun. It’s a shame really, but there you have it. Take it or leave it, rent it if you have to, but don’t expect a great film and you might just enjoy it. The disc itself is also something of a mixed bag. The audio is good enough, and while the image is mostly strong, it is a little too soft. The extras are what really let the disc down, but for the price you can’t really complain I guess.


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