Panique au Village (A Town Called Panic)- France/Belgium

Sometimes watching a film meant for children as an adult will result in a “not sure what I just watched” response. For the Belgian Claymation film, A Town Called Panic, this response can be intensified to “I have literally no idea what I just watched.”


The story begins relatively normal. Cowboy, Indian, and Horse live together (I said relatively). Cowboy and Indian realize they had not gotten Horse anything for his birthday, so they decide to build him a barbecue from fifty bricks. Panic ensues when they actually order fifty million bricks. From there the plot dissolves into complete nonsense involving sea creatures, the center of the earth, and a giant penguin robot powered by superhuman, immature scientists that flings snowballs across the globe (I couldn’t make this up if I tried). The film has a little bit of everything else as well with drama, comedy, romance and action to accent the intriguing animation.

For Americans, the animation is reminiscent of Robot Chicken, or even the very early years of South Park, where each character’s movements were jumps instead of steps. There is a somewhat seamless transition from Cowboy and friends being plastic toys to their clay versions that are used for more flexible movements. The background effects are quite detailed at times and utilize household items such as salt or string for things like snow and water. The creativity involved with making the simplest of objects resemble life-size counterparts is ingenious. Panic would be worth a viewing merely to see the animation if it weren’t for just about everything else.

My above summary is really the most simplistic version of the plot. At one moment it will make sense, and the next there will be an entire new world that has no relevance to anything else other than requiring more painstaking effort from the animators. Panic was originally a series of shorts, which makes much more sense for such an odd story. The problem is, once translated to a full-length feature, the lack of cohesion and never-ending feel to the film. After the hour mark, there are at least three different logical ending points, but more gags are thrown at you. With regards to said gags, they are mildly amusing at points, but wear on you as the film progresses leaving you oddly exhausted once it is finished.

Sadly, there is nothing about Panic that requires a viewing apart from the animation, which is a shame considering the ridiculous amount of effort required. Cowboy and Indian may feel the panic, but the audience just feels exasperated.

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