“A Town Called Panic” is a feature-length version of a children’s TV show produced in Belgium in the early 2000s, in which toy figurines have adventures by way of stop-motion animation. Not having seen the TV show, I can only assume it’s as insane as the movie, which is to say it is one of the most insane things ever devised by man.
Imagine a cross between Wallace and Gromit and “South Park’s” Terence and Philip, as filtered through the imagination of a hyperactive 8-year-old boy who’s delivering his story ideas in random order, as they occur to him. None of the dialogue is ever merely spoken, it is exclaimed, and it doesn’t always make sense, though you can see how it would be logical to a child. (The writer-directors are Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar, and they are grown-ups.) That is “A Town Called Panic.”
The premise: a cowboy and Indian named Cowboy and Indian live with a horse named Horse in a small town (called Panic) where simple, surreal things happen. In the film, Cowboy and Indian accidentally order too many bricks for the barbecue they plan to build for Horse’s birthday. This leads, somehow, to a journey to the Earth’s core, among other weirdness. There are scientists who throw snowballs. There’s a music class that everyone sends their animals to, taught by a lady horse that Horse has a crush on. At home, by the way, Horse is in charge. Cowboy and Indian are clearly his sidekicks, not the other way around.
The relentlessly enthusiastic creativity is eventually exhausting, and the random, episodic story could end just about anywhere and be just as “over” as it is when it actually ends. The TV show came in five-minute doses, which seems about right. But it’s safe to say you’ve never seen anything as delightfully, blissfully, hilariously strange as this.
A- (1 hr., 15 min.; in French with subtitles; )