A Town Called Panic: Stop-Motion Madness from Belgium
dir. Vincent Patar and StÉphane Aubier
Stop-motion animation, the old-timey predecessor to CGI, lends a pleasing whimsy to this odd Belgian creation. Based on a cult animated TV series created by Vincent Patar and Stéphane Aubier (clips of which are readily available on the internet), A Town Called Panic concerns the plight of three protagonists—Cheval, Coboy, and Indien (Horse, Cowboy, and Indian), and their neighbors Steven the farmer and his wife, Jeanine—all rendered here as miniature plastic figurines. To wit: Horse is the roommate of and father figure to Cowboy and Indian, and this becomes something of a problem for Horse. For example, it's Horse's birthday, and, caught off guard for a gift, Cowboy and Indian decide to build him an outdoor barbecue. In an effort to buy 50 bricks via the internet, they accidentally order 50 million—NICE GODDAMNED JOB, COWBOY AND INDIAN. The gaffe sets off a series of surreal and illogical events, all of which severely complicate Horse's main objective: to take music lessons from a sleek mare named Madame Longray.
But the borderline incoherent plot of A Town Called Panic is only of mild relevance. The mad genius here is in the details: the swordfish arrows deployed by the group's underwater nemeses, a family of mermen; the spot-on voice-overs (Benoît Poelvoorde as Steven the loudmouth farmer is particularly entertaining); the giant penguin tank driven by unassumingly Herculean scientists. Hey, parents—there's no reason not to take your kids to this film. A Town Called Panic is absurd, Frenchy, and pretty much perfect.