Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A TOWN CALLED PANIC (2009) / ***½

Distributor: Zeitgeist
Release Date: December 16, 2009
Genre: Animation
Running Time: 75 minutes
MPAA Rating: Unrated

There’s an undeniably child-like charm and audacity in “A Town Called Panic” that is unlike any I’ve seen on screen before. This stop-motion animated film from Belgium never even pays lip service to the concept of reality and instead presents a series of zany adventures that don’t even pretend to add up to a coherent whole. It’s precisely this wacky nature that makes “Panic” as entertaining as it is.

Directors Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar, who had been making “Panic” in five-minute episodes, found a way to expand their offbeat sense of humor into 75 minutes. The main characters are best friends Cowboy (Coboy), Indian (Indien), and Horse (Cheval). They live in a village with a Policeman, a Postman, a farmer named Steven and his wife Janine.

Events surrounding Horse’s birthday lead to some awfully strange things happening in the village. Cowboy and Indian want to buy a barbecue pit for Horse, which requires 50 bricks. Cowboy accidentally sets something on the “zero” key, and 50 bricks turns into 50 million bricks. With no place to store them, they think they can get away with stashing them on top of Horse’s house. This is of course ends badly, and sets off a series of events that don’t necessarily make sense logically, but are perfectly believable in the context of this universe.

When the pile of bricks destroys Horse’s house and they’re trying to rebuild it, they discover that every morning someone is building their carefully crafted walls. The culprits turn out to be pointy-headed creatures from under the sea, and Horse, Cowboy and Indian follow them to the ends of the earth – literally.

In a cinematic age where the technical wizardry of “Avatar” is the wave of the future, it’s good to know that a style as primitive as the one used in “A Town Called Panic” still exists.

Theater: The Ruth Sokolof Theater, Omaha, NE
Time: 1015 pm
Date: April 14, 2010

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