The British do love their animals—so much so that, during World War II, they created a special award for birds and mammals that had served their country with valor. This award, called the Dickin Medal, was given to over 50 creatures during the war and its aftermath, and more than half of the recipients were pigeons. Yes, pigeons. In this age of encrypted e-mail attachments, it may be difficult to believe that the fate of nations once hinged (and so recently, at that) on birds carrying tiny bits of paper across the English Channel. But it did, and this nugget of historical fact gives Valiant—an animated film about a handful of birds who join the Royal Homing Pigeon Service, or RHPS—an extra nostalgic cachet.
The hero of this film is Valiant (voice of Ewan McGregor), a small wood pigeon who dreams of flying risky missions and proving his mettle alongside the bigger, brawnier likes of his idol, the stiff-upper-beak Wing Commander Gutsy (Stuart Little's Hugh Laurie). Valiant heads for London, where he meets Bugsy (The Office's Ricky Gervais), a smelly, grubby con artist who is so attached to the flies that swarm about his head that he's given them names. When Valiant goes to enlist in the RHPS, Bugsy tags along, but only because he has to dodge a couple of birds he has just tricked out of their seeds—and before Bugsy can talk his way out of his new assignment, he and Valiant are both sent off to boot camp.
What follows is an affectionate send-up of war-movie tropes, many of them given a cute or clever small-animal twist. Instead of running through a maze of tires, the birds must fly through tires swinging from a branch. When the pigeons lift weights, their barbells are made of apples and other fruit. When ...1
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