Unrated, but outside of a few curse words (nothing worse than “bastard”), this is harmless for kids and super religious types.
Starring: Stephane Aubier, Bruce Ellison, Vincent Patar
Written by: Stephane Aubier/Vincent Patar
Directed by: Stephane Aubier/Vincent Patar
Running Time: 75 minutes
A Town Called Panic is a movie that plays out like it comes from a child’s imagination; void of logic, sense, or anything you would expect from a movie, it’s like a wild ride through an imaginary world that feels like the person (or people) behind this was making it up on the fly, and either you’re going to go along with it or you’re not. If you submit to the world and to the ideas presented by Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar (the writers, directors, and two of its main voice actors) though, you’ll find a movie that may not make a lot of sense, but is vastly entertaining, if a bit off-kilter.
Shot in a crude stop motion animation and made up of characters you would find in a dollar store, A Town Called Panic follows friends Cowboy, Indian, and Horse through their madcap world. On Horse’s birthday, Cowboy and Indian decide to make Horse a barbecue but mistakenly order too many bricks. They attempt to hide these bricks on top of the house, but the weight ends up crushing the entire structure and the three set off to make a new house out of all the leftover bricks. Unfortunately, their plan is being foiled by an unknown thief who keeps stealing their walls, so the three set out to find the culprit.
The town of Panic (I assume that’s the town name since that’s the title…*sigh* that did NOT need to be explained) is made up of all sorts of characters; besides the three, there is their next door neighbor Steven who is a farmer with an unhealthy obsession with his tractor. Policeman and Postman go about the town doing the jobs their names tell you they do, and Horse manages to find time to fall in love with Madame Longrée (her name is spelled differently but I can’t remember it off the top of my head), who teaches Steven’s farm animals how to play music. A subplot revolves around Horse trying to get back home to go his piano lessons and woo the girl all the while dealing with the chaos he is currently involved in (which includes, amongst other things, a mechanical penguin that throws giant snowballs, created for…well, no reason).
A Town Called Panic is very simple; the animation is simple, if a bit crude, which gives it its own look and charm; the character names are not very detailed or well thought out (minus names like Cowboy, the other names are simple like Simon or Steven). In essence, it’s like you’re watching a 6 year old who has inherited a bunch of old toys from his grandfather killing time by creating some crazy imaginary world where a mechanical snowball throwing penguin is a necessity.
Nothing also seems to make sense, but I doubt the people behind this were trying to really piece it together meticulously like a Christopher Nolan would. Things happen when the plot calls for it (Cowboy, Indian, and Horse end up in the ocean and low and behold, snorkels pop up on their faces so they can breathe), and as the movie goes on, it just gets weirder and weirder.
Be that as it may, I found A Town Called Panic very entertaining. Being as I couldn’t tell what was going to happen, there was no chance for me to zone out; I had to keep my eyes glued to the screen in order to see how things were going to play out. There are some funny moments, but mostly I was just more enthralled by the sheer insanity and the visual aspects. The characters are all absolutely insane, but in that good way that is hard to come by. Cowboy and Indian are the more madcap characters, the comic relief while Horse plays their straight ma…err horse. They make a good trio. The other characters are not fleshed out, there’s really no time, but they manage to liven up a world that some who lack imagination will be able to find appealing or believable.
Not everyone will be as charmed by it, though. A Town Called Panic is a short film, clocking in at 75 minutes including credits, and they throw everything they can into there. The story takes ridiculous turns, and while I enjoy craziness, it does get a bit much. Also, the movie is in another language (this is ported from Belgium), so there are subtitles. I know that’s not really a knock against the movie, but there are people out there who don’t like to read when watching a movie and I figure I’d throw that in there. Also, the man who voices Steven has possibly the most annoying voice I have ever heard and I wanted to mute the thing every time his character was on screen. That’s a personal issue though, and I’m sure no one else will react like that.
All in all, A Town Called Panic is a 75 minute ride through a 6 year old’s imagination put out on the screen for every one to see. It’ll invoke times when you used to take out your action figures and act out ridiculous scenarios, and it’s got originality and insanity to spare. This, for me, was a one time watch but I would recommend it to people who like a little insanity in their diet, and dig animation as a craft.