Fri 5 Feb 2010
“A Town Called Panic”, the feature film based on a series of shorts ran on Belgian TV under the more foreign sounding name of “Panique au Village”, is something American audiences haven’t seen before and is sure to help animation fans who are tired of the same 3D computer generated look that all of the current fare seems to be so locked into being.
Creators Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar use stop-motion and the kinds of plastic toys you’d get in a grab bag from the local library to invent a whole, fantastic, bizarre and funny world that seems lifted straight from the imagination of a 6 year old boy. The plot is … well … don’t expect a plot. Really, the film unfolds like a child’s afternoon playtime with said plastic toys. It begins in one place, through random happenstance moves onto a new idea, rinse and repeat until the street lights turn on (in the audience’s case, that would be the house lights in the theater).
That’s not a bad thing, however, because what the film excels at is providing offbeat characters and situations in a fun and humorous way. Just watching Horse, who lives with Cowboy and Indian (names are simple and to the point), go about his morning routine of eating breakfast and showering is hilarious. There’s just something so simple and sublime in watching imagination come to life. And I’m not even going to ruin the genius of a robotic penguin and the scientists who control it, that would be a crime.
“A Town Called Panic” may be the oddest film experience you have this year, in a very good way. While the experience can drag a bit at times and make the 75 minute runtime feel longer than that, this is something for the kid in you to enjoy and marvel at, getting a 3.5 out of 5. Now I can only hope that any merchandise created in connection with the film won’t be astronomically more expensive than the plastic toys you buy in the aisle 5 of the grocery store.