FILM REVIEW A Town Called Panic

Truly fantastic in plastic

PG * 78 mins * 8 October 2010
Directors: Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar
Cast: Stéphane Aubier, Bruce Ellison, Vincent Patar

A Town Called Panic has “cult” written all over it in Day-Glo yellow crayon. A fast and furious mix of The Mighty Boosh and Toy Story (with, bizarrely, a hint of Eurotrash thrown in, only in a kiddie way), the film made the Official Selection list at Cannes in 2009 – the first stop-motion animated feature ever to do so. And it thoroughly deserved to, being like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

It’s a self-assured and utterly original love affair to the ridiculous, based on a Belgian TV series and given a feature-length spin that should win it legions of young fans. Hopefully they won’t be put off by the French soundtrack and the accompanying subtitles, as redubbing it into English would be a crime – the frenzied voice actors (who include the writer/directors), are hilariously perfect for their roles.

The cast of characters are led by the grumpy, gravelly-voiced Horse and his squeaky, squabbling pals, Cowboy and Indian, who find themselves launched into a series of adventures after an innocent gift of a barbecue for Horse’s birthday draws the attention of a race of greedy underwater creatures. Insanity ensues. Houses are picked up and dragged away by thieves; our heroes fall through the insides of the Earth; they get captured and held prisoner on board a giant snowball machine wandering a frozen wasteland… If Wallace and Gromit took some peyote and appeared on The Clangers, this is the kind of surreal yet intoxicating nonsense that would result.

Films as unusual as this don’t come along very often, and films this bizarre that are aimed at kids are even rarer. A Town Called Panic is chaotic, warped and impervious to logic – a total treasure just waiting to be discovered.

Jayne Nelson