One of my earliest memories is of sitting outside in the snow and a big jacket, with my Playskool plastic barn and assorted barn animals, toy cars, soldiers and such. I spent hours, everywhere, arranging these figures, hurling them through the sky, burying them under rocks, occasionally melting or dissecting them, inventing crazy situations where they could interact, play, attack and relax. None of them, I expect, were as exhilaratingly intense or as laugh-out-loud-funny as the bizarre adventures that directors Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar invent for Cowboy, Indian, Horse and their assorted cohorts in this whimsical and clever stop-motion animated film.
Cowboy and Indian are careless and carefree. They live together in a big house with the somewhat more dignified Horse, who enjoys chocolate-covered hay and has a thing for the beautiful music teacher, Ms. Longree. It's Horse's birthday, and Cowboy and Indian forgot to get a present, so they get frantic. They decide to build him a brick barbecue, but they don't have enough bricks, so they order some online but instead of the 50 they need they accidentally order 500000000000000000000 or some such ridiculous number of bricks. Towering the extra bricks on top of the house turns out not to be such a good idea; and when they try to rebuild their broken house out of stray bricks, the funny thing is that someone keeps stealing their walls, and now they all have to work together to resolve the mystery.
I saw this with my kids, but in a theater where there were mostly adults, and everyone was busting up at the absurdly over-the-top scenarios that felt like the spontaneous result of whimsical and inventive storytellers with lots of plastic toys at their disposal. It's more lo-fi than, say, Wallace & Gromit or Coraline, and it's less refined and clever than Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox, but it's more fun than I've had in the theater in a long time. Highly recommended for adults who haven't forgotten everything about childhood, and for children who won't be traumatized by either subtitles or surrealistic silliness (including a night of drunken carousing on the part of plastic toys, that ends with Farmer plastered in a jealous rage, ready to punch the lights out of Postman for asking his wife to dance).
My wife and one of my kids missed this in the theaters, and I can't wait for the dvd release to bring it home for all to enjoy. I would take this any day over most of the animated dreck that comes and goes in the local movieplexes. Great stuff for lovers of inventive cinema.
Star Rating: A Town Called Panic is the most innovative mad folly ever to make the direct leap from the imagination to the big screen. Adapted from the European TV series, it stirred within me long-dormant childhood memories, when I would not only play with action figures and dolls but also assign them roles, provide them with silly voices, and guide them on illogical adventures that went nowhere in particular. This movie evokes that kind of creative playfulness. … more
"A Town Called Panic" An Anarchic Feature Film Amos Lassen Animated toys like Cowboy, Indian and Horse have problems just like we so. Cowboy and Horse want to celebrate the birthday of their friend Horse and they decide to build him a barbecue pit. However they made a mistake when ordering the bricks and accidentally ordered a billion too many. In the beginning they were able to hide the extra bricks … more
Writer-directors Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar spun this nutty feature off their Belgian TV seriesA Town Called Panic(Panique au Village, 2000). When Cowboy and Indian decide to build a barbecue as a birthday gift for their friend and roommate Horse, they inadvertently order a zillion bricks, rather than the 50 the project requires. The weight of so much masonry causes the house to collapse, and a string of increasingly absurd complications ensues. The stop-motion animation is much cruder than the work inCoralineorTim Burton's Corpse Bride. Even the main characters have only a few articulations, and the directors avoid close-ups, so they don't have to animate facial expressions or lip-synch dialogue. The result feels like something an aspiring film student might make using old plastic toys. Many viewers (and critics) embraced the anarchic humor ofA Town Called Panic; less sanguine audience members dismissed it as the animated equivalent of an old Cheech and Chong movie: something that's funny if you're stoned, but isn't if you're not. The extras include a making-of documentary, interviews with directors Aubier and Patar, and an assortment of deleted scenes and tests--more material than such a marginal film really warrants. (Unrated, suitable for ages 10 and older: cartoon violence, ethnic stereotypes)--Charles Solomon