Directed by: Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar
Runtime: 75 minutes
Review: Zach Owens
Based on the French-language, Belgian-produced children’s show of the same name, “A Town Called Panic” is an unbelievably quirky little stop motion family film.
On the outset it looks strange. It’s like a version of “Toy Story” as made by children actually playing with little plastic toys with those little plastic bases so they’ll stand up without falling over – which causes a hilarious wobble when the characters walk.
It’s about a cowboy named Cowboy, an Indian named Indian and a horse named, you guessed it, Horse.
It’s Horse’s birthday and Cowboy and Indian want to make him a barbecue out of bricks for his present. In order to do that they apparently need exactly 50 bricks, but of course, because they are clumsy they accidentally order 50 million bricks. Needless to say, after they build him the barbecue they have a few left over which they decide to store in a bundle on top of their house (because where else would you store that many spare bricks?).
Of course the house crumbles under the weight, but at least that gives them something else to build with their overabundance of bricks. They begin with the walls, and after a hard days work they go to sleep in their neighbor’s barn only to wake up and find that someone has stolen their walls. They try to rebuild them, but again they’re stolen.
The trio must head out on an adventure to find the thieves and bring back their walls so they can finish their house.
There is a bit of “Looney Tunes,” the Marx Brothers, and The Three Stooges all rolled into one in this film, with Horse being the more mature figure and Cowboy and Indian being the two goofballs that keep getting them into more trouble.
There’s just something endlessly charming about this silly little film. It looks like a home video of kids playing around with toys and doing silly voices to bring them to life. But there’s a cleverness to the characters and the over-the-top situations they find themselves in. Miraculously, there are even hints of a well thought out community for these toys to exist in.
You get the sense that life has been brimming in this town well before the events of this film and it will go on long after the credits.
The fact that it works at all is some sort of magic – the type of magic that can bring toys to life in the eyes of a child. Adults may have lost the ability to imagine the way a child does, but “A Town Called Panic” reminds us of the feeling, if only for 75 minutes.