It’s May 1944. The Royal Homing Pigeon Service (RHPS) is suffering heavy casualties from Nazi falcon attacks over the Channel. Wing Commander Gutsy (voiced by Hugh Laurie) sets out to replenish the messenger squads with recruits from around England. Gutsy’s daring exploits and heroics gain the admiration of a small but plucky pigeon, Valiant (Ewan McGregror), who decides to enlist.
After bidding farewell to his mother and friend Felix (John Hurt), Valiant flies off to London. Here he accidentally rescues a somewhat scruffy Bugsy (Ricky Gervais). The pair become friends and join the RHPS. They are put into F Squad, along with the posh Lofty (Pip Torrens), and brothers Toughwood (Brian Lonsdale) and Tailfeather (Dan Roberts). Their commander is Sergeant (Jim Broadbent). The tough training regime is somewhat sweetened for Valiant by a romance with nurse Victoria (Olivia Williams).
Meanwhile in France, the Nazi falcon Von Talon (Tim Curry) and his minions Cufflingk (Rik Mayall) and Underlingk (Michael Schlingmann) are trying to extract the location and plans of the French Resistance from a captured RPHS member, Mercury (John Cleese). Thus far, Mercury has managed to resist their interrogation.
F Squad are called up to join Gutsy in a mission to get an important message from the Mouse Division of the French Resistance. The squad must overcome their fears, inexperience and self-doubt to complete the mission as a team and rescue Mercury.
Here we outline any topics, issues and ideas in this movie that might upset children and adolescents, so that you can gauge whether it is appropriate for your child. For example, children and adolescents may react adversely to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, separation from a parent, animal cruelty or distress, children as victims, natural disasters and racism.
None of concern
Here we identify any violence in this movie, and explain how and why it might impact on your child or adolescent. In general, movie violence can make children less sensitive to the use of violence in real life. Alternatively, they may become fearful about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world. In some contexts, it can also teach them to see violence as an acceptable means of conflict resolution.
There is some mild violence in this movie, usually with comic intent. For example:
- The pigeons have frequent mishaps during training. They fall over, crash and collide into each other and inanimate objects.
- Brothers Toughwood and Tailfeather often end up in fights with each other, as do the two German falcon guards.
- There are several sequences when falcons chase the pigeons and mice. At times they are caught or mildly hurt, but no members of F Squad or the resistance are killed.
Content that may disturb children
- At the start of the movie, three pigeons are flying back over the Channel on a dark and stormy night. They are pursued by falcons, and are eventually caught and killed. The deaths are not shown, but implied by flying feathers.
- Mercury is caged, threatened with torture, harassed and given a truth serum injection by his Nazi falcon captors. At times he appears frightened and distressed. When he is under the influence of the drug, he appears confused.
- Bugsy tricks two menacing magpies, who set upon him and chase him. This is shown in a comic light.
- Valiant and Mercury are afraid of being injected. The needles and syringes are very large.
- F Squad are dropped over France. Their plane, under heavy attack, crashes with Commander Gutsy seemingly still inside. The birds appear scared and sad.
- Valiant hears noises in the rumble of a bombed church. He enters the darkened building, looking fearful, and screams when he stumbles into a gargoyle statue.
Children in this age group could also be concerned by some of the scenes described above. They might be particularly worried by the plane crash with Commander Gutsy apparently still inside, and the pursuit of pigeons and mice by the falcons.
There are no scenes in this movie that would scare children in this age group.
- The squad all admire and ogle at a poster of a pigeon starlet depicted in the style of the era.
- Bugsy deliberately misinterprets a comment by the French resistance female leader who talks about a ‘message’. Bugsy instead requests a full body ‘massage’.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
One scene is set in Valiant’s local pub. None of the main characters are shown to be drinking or inebriated.
Nudity and sexual activity
Although the movie does not contain any coarse language, it does include some name-calling.
Ideas to discuss with your children
The premise of Valiant is interesting. But the combination of cute pigeon protagonists, World War II themes and slapstick humour do not actually meld very well. The target audience of young children might find the physical humour and the basic story of ‘good over evil’ entertaining, but the 1940s setting and dialogue are likely to be lost on younger viewers. Adults might find the simple plot, underdeveloped characters and the seemingly endless bird-related puns somewhat tiresome.
The main message of the movie is that good overcomes evil, and that you can achieve great things no matter how big or small you are. The movie depicts a range of values including:
- friendship and loyalty
- endurance through adversity
- courage, responsibility and team work
- not being limited by other people’s expectations
- positive self-talk.
You could talk with your child about some of these values. You could also talk about the real-life consequences of some of the behaviour of the characters, such as using violence to solve conflict, teasing and unequal gender roles.