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  Town Called Panic, A Home Improvement
Year: 2009
Director: Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar
Stars: Stephane Aubier, Jeanne Balibar, Nicolas Buysse, Véronique Dumont, Bruce Ellison, Christine Grulois, Frédéric Jannin, Bouli Lanners, Christelle Mahy, Eric Muller, Vincent Patar, Franco Piscopo, Benoît Poelvoorde, Alexandre von Sivers
Genre: Comedy, Animated, Weirdo, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: The postman has been delivering the letters and parcels around the village, but when he gets to the house of Horse (voiced by Vincent Patar), Cowboy (Stéphane Aubier) and Indian (Bruce Ellison), he has to wait after ringing the doorbell because they're not ready to get up. They do leap into action, however, and jump into the shower while Horse rushes downstairs to answer the door, where there is a letter for him. It's a birthday card, which prompts his two friends into an awful realisation: they haven't bought him a present, they've totally forgotten about the occasion. Then they have a brain wave: how about getting Horse a barbecue?

Well, it sounds like a simple idea, but as you will notice after five minutes of this lunacy, nothing is ever simple in this place, not with Cowboy and Indian there to lead their noble plans into outright catastrophe. Yet you never feel as if anything that happens here, no matter how apparently irreversible, is too serious thanks to a wildly irreverent tone throughout. This was based on the animated series Panique au Village, a creation of Belgian animators Aubier and Patar, who provide a few of the voices, and was a selection of shorts revolving around the madcap adventures of three toy figures of the type that probably more belonged to yesteryear.

So it was refreshing to see such figures reclaimed for comedy purposes, although anyone expecting a Western may well be let down, as apart from a few gunshots and arrows fired, the main trio do not live up to their conventional personality types. As they were arranged here, Horse was more the sensible, parental figure - although that was relatively speaking - with Cowboy and Indian the unruly children, and the way they all lived together in one house was more to do with the surreal situation than any comment on harmonious existence. As for that story, its skipped and flitted from one bizarre incident to the next, barely pausing for breath.

What sets all this in motion is not so much Horse's birthday, but the attempts by his pals to provide a present going haywire after they go on the internet to order fifty bricks for building the barebcue and end up with fifty million of the things when Cowboy accidentally hits the wrong key. They have an inkling that something has gone wrong when a legion of trucks show up at their door and deliver what they've unintentionally asked for, but they have a solution: pile up all the unwanted bricks on top of the roof, because there's no way that could possibly go wrong, could it? But avoidable disasters are what spark these events, and soon their home is destroyed thanks to the weight.

Some in non-French-speaking territories were wont to criticise the producers of this for not providing a dubbed into English version more accessible to children, and it's true that some of the potential audience would have been lost thanks to five year olds not being able to keep up with the subtitles. On the other hand, hearing the original voice work is very funny, due to it being just as nutty as the visuals, so even if you don't know the language older viewers may well have appreciated simply enjoying the sound of the actors yelling, squeaking and rumbling. As the plot draws on, if there's any problem at all it's that even at just over an hour it's so incredibly inventive that you may find a fatigue setting in as wall rustlers and a mechanical snowball-throwing penguin enter into the fray, not to mention Horse's pressing need to take piano lessons, but for all its exhausting qualities, A Town Called Panic was genuinely hilarious in its deeply silly fashion.

[Optimum's DVD has a trailer and an interview with the (very serious-looking) directors as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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