Wednesday, 3 August 2011

A Town Called Panic

Panic Symbols

A Town Called Panic 2009
Directed by Stéphane Aubier & Vincent Patar
Region 2 DVD

Don't Panic... only slight spoilers!

It’s not often one gets the chance these days to legitimately use the term “madcap” when describing a film... but that’s just what Aubier and Patar’s movie, A Town Called Panic, turned out to be... a reckless, impulsive and lively potpourri of inventive ideas inspired by their TV show of the same name.

The movie focusses on the adventures of a toy Cowboy (called Cowboy) and toy Indian (called Indian) who live with their friend Horse, in Horse’s house... until they accidentally destroy it due to an accidental over-ordering of 50 million bricks when they try to build Horse a barbecue for his birthday. The animation style employed is crude and ragged to depict our three heroes and their friends in the town/village but, since the inhabitants “panic” by nature just in the course of their everyday situations, the pace speeds along at a mile a minute and the movie hurtles along on its own collision course to a conclusion of some sort. The combination of speed and crudity very soon becomes addictive.

Everything holds together really well in terms of the actual “world” of the characters and this is quite strange because there are many things that contradict logic. Why, for example, are there sudden leaps in scale? Most of what the inhabitants of A Town Called Panic use in their everyday lives is scaled down to their size but when it comes to breakfast, the slice of bread and coffee cup are full-scale sized and dwarfs the characters. I especially liked the way one of the characters drank his cup of coffe by diving through and smashing a hole in one side of his mug and then immediately rushing back out through the other side. Little moments like this give the film some real lift.

The story continues to develop as Cowboy, Indian and Horse (who is cultivating a love interest with a sexy, piano teaching horse) build a new house... but it gets stolen in the night. The same thing happens the next night and so the three stake out their newly built house waiting to see who has been stealing the walls they’ve been building during the days. From then on the movie just gets even more surreal as our three brave heroes find themselves embroiled in strange adventures which involve undersea people (whose world is somehow linked with the duck pond in Steven the farmer’s garden, using it as a gateway/portal to their undersea kingdom), a long drop to the centre of the earth and a giant, snowball throwing, mechanical penguin powered by tough-guy, beat ‘em up, rock ‘em sock ‘em scientists who enslave our hereoes to make their tea and do their washing as they amuse themselves hurling giant snowballs at unsuspecting and undeserving victims (and it’s hilarious seeing Cowboy, Indian, Horse and their undersea acquaintance thrown around and beaten up by some old scientists).

There’s even a scene involving Horse and his “future girlfriend” dancing in a similar manner to a specific (and relatively obscure, given its famous source) dance sequence from Singin’ In The Rain. It’s this kind of warm, heart beating beneath the surface of the story that infuses the tiny plastic figures with a dose of emotion and identity that ultimately stops any of the jokes wearing thin in this one. It’s an absolute joy to watch and the noisy, “panic” stricken and, yes, madcap antics of the towns inhabitants will keep any kids and adult kids alike quiet... well there’d be little point in trying to make any kind of a fuss over all that loud hullababloo on the screen. Certainly I enjoyed this movie more than any Pixar creations of late and the tightrope of uneven sensibilities which live in harmony in this particular movie are a tribute to the talents who wrote and directed, not just this film, but the preceeding TV show of the same name (the existence of which I was completely oblivious to, when I saw this movie).

A very definite and wholehearted recommendation from me on this movie, as it's a darn sight more entertaining than the majority of other animated products on show at the time. Watch this one as soon as possible.


  1. I think the word "madcap" was invented just to describe this movie!

    I adore it and it was one of my favorites of that year, and certainly one of the more entertaining films to come out in recent memory in general, not just in the animated sphere. I'm glad you like it as much as I do!

    Cowboy! Indien! CHEVAL!

  2. Hi Alex. Thanks again for your kind words.

    Yeah, Cheval/Horse is easily the koolest one in it. Definitely the authority figure too... I don't usually sympathise with authority figures.

    Thanks for reading.