Sublimating the horrors of World War II into patriotic, action-packed children’s entertainment should be grounds for a court-martial, but I’ll let the makers of
Valiant off with a slap on the cheek. According to the film’s postscript, homing pigeons aided the war effort. Fine. But do they really deserve their own blandly heroic animated fable, in which human life—let alone mass death—doesn’t even exist? The story follows the diminutive titular bird (voiced by Ewan McGregor) as he answers the Dept. of Pigeon Propaganda’s call to action for a wartime messenger task that remains entirely nebulous. Valiant and his crew mostly avoid the bad guys and crack wise, leaving no shred of bird terminology un-punned. (“We have ways of making you squawk,” gloats a gleeful Nazi falcon to his pigeon P.O.W.) The main problem with this Disney release—which also wastes the voices of Ricky Gervais and Jim Broadbent—is its refusal to recognize the war as anything but an excuse for tomfoolery. As education by anthropomorphism goes, Maus this ain’t.