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VALIANT

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During World War II, the British military trained pigeons to deliver important messages and even assigned some medals of bravery. John Williams' computer-animated adventure depicts one puny pigeon's coming-of-age quest to end the war. Inspired by a visit by the Royal Homing Pigeon Service's suave top messenger, plucky underbird Valiant (featuring Ewan McGregor's gee-whiz voice) enters the service with a unlikely partner, a flea-infested swindler named Bugsy (voiced by Ricky Gervais). Their tour of duty includes working with the French Resistance, led by sassy mouse Charles De Girl, and avoiding predatory German falcons known to torture POWs with yodeling recordings. This family film lacks the smart charm of computer-animated classics such as Shrek, forsaking pop-culture references for easy puns that may not be so entertaining for adults. Still, Valiant earns points for exploring this fascinating (if somewhat ridiculous) little-known facet of WWII. Little Valiant makes war seem like a noble effort -- a rare ideal as of late. (JD)

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