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A Town Called Panic

A Town Called Panic

Review by Lisa Giles-Keddie

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

ARE you familiar with the eccentric Cravendale milk ads and the cows getting moo-ing mad over their ‘stolen’ milk? A Town Called Panic is a feature-length version, based on the Belgian animated cult TV series of the same name.

The film is quite simply animated lunacy run wild from directors Vincent Patar and Stéphane Aubier and it’s an absolute tonic in a cinema world obsessed with 3D.

It’s equally as entertaining – if not more so – because it possesses qualities that the latter often lack: sheer imagination, without lots of fancy studio tools to hand, plus some memorable voiceovers.

Admittedly, this form of animation is an acquired taste and its plastic toy characters of Cowboy, Indian and Horse have to grab your attention straightaway for you to be able to go along for the insane ride. If this doesn’t happen, you will be left perplexed at what all the fuss is about.

The stop-motion animated style isn’t technically perfect by any accounts, but is – in my opinion – exactly what’s needed to create the feeling of ‘panic’ and continual unrest to the narrative.

However, even though the pace is frenetic, the film-makers don’t lose sight of attention to detail and there’s still plenty of opportunity to marvel at what’s packed into every single moment in the film. It’s a real labour of love that pays off.

The countryside world of our three protagonists is abruptly disrupted, after an online error made by Cowboy and Indian, who try to get Horse something original for his birthday.

Chaos ensues, but not without many tearful giggles at the utter idiocy of the situation, made all the more hilarious by the inane yells from neighbouring farmer Steven and his cries of ‘Hey, Cheval!’ that are annoyingly catchy, to say the least. It’s like being in a state of wonderment at what could possibly happen next that keeps you on your toes.

There are some strange underwater creatures that come in the dead of night to steal from our three friends, as well as mad scientists operating a large penguin-shaped transporter that seem to be trying to make the perfect snowball for one childish purpose only.

In fact, it’s the side-tracking elements of the tale that tickle you the most in this sensationally silly story and supply the added thrills.

It also demonstrates that slapstick comedy done in a thoughtful and immensely creative fashion is certainly not dead in the water.

A Town Called Panic is fresh, absurd and hearty good fun that will entertain the whole family. Whether it is a ‘made-for-TV film’ is debatable.

That said, it’s not in the same league as Aardman’s Wallace and Gromit, and at times feels like a self-indulgent experiment in making feature film for its creators, rather than producing characters that can be truly loved and shared.

But it is in its own potty world, though, and one that for 75 minutes can be thoroughly relished, if you get onboard from the offset.

Certificate: PG
Running time: tbc
UK DVD Release: November 15, 2010