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February 2006 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Valiant  
Music composed and conducted by George Fenton
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
  Available on Walt Disney Records (61388-7)
Running Time: 47:18
Amazon UK   Amazon US

An Ealing Studios venture into computer animation, Valiant tells the coming-of-plumage story of a runty wood pigeon that joins the Royal Homing Pigeon Service during World War II, and helps spoil the pecking order of enemy falcons before Britain's feathered air force is totally plucked. With its all-star cast of vocal talons... err... talents (Ewan McGregor, Tim Curry, Ricky Gervais, John Cleese, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Laurie, et al.) and backing from Walt Disney Pictures, it bodes poorly for the film that it nosedived faster than a clay pigeon nonetheless. It never took flight in the United States.

Certainly George Fenton's music cannot be what clipped the movie's wings. The soundtrack album makes that obvious. Even as a comedy-adventure score there is a curious shortage of dramatic airspace, so the music never soars as high as it could (consider Memphis Belle instead, another of the composer's WWII works), but there are some thrilling action cues, most notably in a nearly 13-minute track toward the finale, and the 'March of the R.H.P.S.', a morale-booster in the classic mode of the English armed forces, is a recurring highlight of the album, swooping toward a plucky performance from The Central Band of the Royal Air Force.

A parting cover of 'Shoo Shoo Baby' is a rotten egg. The period song was once performed by the Andrews Sisters; now, it receives a contemporary performance by Mis-Teeq as some sort of Mis-Take. More authentic is Fenton's swinging set for the two-part 'Arrival at Camp', performed by Chris Dean & The Syd Lawrence Orchestra.

In the end, George Fenton's Valiant is no rare bird. But one need not go out on a limb to enjoy it.

Jeffrey Wheeler

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