Valiant Gary Chapman

Having just endured The Great Raid's inspirational WWII blather, I was unsurprised to discover this animated UK import offered more of the same but for the kiddie audience. The titular hero (voiced by Ewan McGregor) is a tiny passenger pigeon who heroically enlists in the Royal Homing Pigeon Service; he and his unit prove largely useless until they're thrown against a hawk brigade led by the evil Von Talon (Tim Curry).

In one sense, the film is a masterpiece of evasion, cleverly deleting any literal mention of Nazism with bird-of-prey imagery, but the creative energy ends there with an entirely standard "believe in yourself" plot coming in to fill the void. Minor amusement can be had in playing "spot the Briton," with John Cleese, Hugh Laurie, Olivia Williams, John Hurt, Rik Mayall and Jim Broadbent lending their voices to the cause.

Alas, the only one who does anything with his part is The Office's Ricky Gervais, who takes his smelly Han Solo part and gives it a genuine impudence that the rest of the production could really use. Aside from him (and a mouse named Rollo, who explodes at the word "sabotage"), there's nothing but brackish grey vistas and mediocre character animation.

It's not exactly a painful experience, and it's generally preferably to unspeakable swill like Madagascar, but although kids will like it grown-ups will walk out of the theatre unmoved and unrewarded. I'm not sure that I like the idea of a non-specific "good war" motivational seminar, especially the way that war is being piggybacked on the current one, but you'll stare intently at your watch long before you reach any unpleasant ideological conclusions. (Disney/Buena Vista)