A Town Called Panic (PG)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner07/10/2010

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 78 mins

Brilliantly animated and frequently funny, this is a wildly inventive adventure that's like watching a hyperactive child playing with their toys for 78 minutes, though the novelty does wear thin somewhere around the halfway mark.

What's it all about?
Directed by Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar, A Town Called Panic (Panique au Village, original title fans) is a Belgian stop-motion animation that takes place in a two-house village inhabited by a group of plastic children's toys. When the childlike Cowboy (Stephane Aubier) and Indian (Bruce Ellison) realise that they've forgotten to get the paternal Horse (Vincent Patar) a birthday present, they decide to build him a surprise barbecue but their plan goes horribly wrong when they accidentally order 50 million bricks and end up destroying their house.

Their attempts to rebuild the house are hampered by the fact that someone keeps stealing the walls during the night, so the three set off to find the culprits in an adventure that takes them to the North Pole, the centre of the Earth and the depths of the ocean. Meanwhile, in between adventures, Horse attempts to romance thoroughbred music teacher Mme Longree (Jeanne Balibar).

The Good
Like the wonderful opening sequence to Toy Story 3, A Town Called Panic essentially works as a window into the mind of an imaginative (and in this case, hyperactive) child as he or she plays with their toys. The script is frequently hilarious and is packed with inventive sight gags, witty lines (“I told you we should have bought him a hat!”) and brilliantly surreal jokes (such as Horse enjoying his morning rituals), though ultimately it's the characters shouting their own names at each other in silly voices (“Cowboy!” “Indian!” “Horse!” (or rather, “Cheval!”) that you'll be quoting down the pub afterwards.

The Bad
A Town Called Panic began life as a series of shorts that became a Belgian TV series (the filmmakers are also behind the Cravendale milk commercials in the UK) and while it's true that the film is only 78 minutes long, it's also fair to say that the novelty wears off around the halfway mark and it's hard not to conclude that the conceit is ultimately best suited to short films.

Worth seeing?
A Town Called Panic is frequently funny and brilliantly animated, but it's also exhausting, in the same way that watching real children play can be exhausting. Still, it's hard not to love a film that features a giant robot penguin throwing snowballs.

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Content updated: 20/04/2019 23:55

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