Having just watched A Town Called Panic, I am employing every ounce of self-control and the limited reserve of dignity in my body and mind to prevent myself from writing this review in full caps-lock. Words alone cannot describe how much I enjoyed this film. Guttural noises would hardly do it justice either. If you only take one thing from this review, if not even this whole newspaper this year, it is that you should see this film.
The easiest way to describe it would be quirky, however “quirky” is a term bandied about a lot, and never in a good way. Quirky is like Cute’s ugly cousin. If someone has a quirky fashion sense, for example, it means they know that individualism is the key, but take it too far. I mean we all go to Topshop and see that one item of clothing and think “ah man that’s an awesome shoulder padded leopard print blazer with an appliqué pattern of Pol-pot’s face on the lapel” try it on and think, “ah man this is hilarious but no, I’m not in a La Roux video” and then put it back. The next day however we, the quirk-deficient masses, will be walking into college and see said quirky person walking it, not only in the blazer but with a pair of knee high maroon Doc martens and some skinnies they found in a skip in Dalston. Quirky, in other words is: Shit, but endearingly earnest.
A Town Called Panic on the other hand is not like that. It is certainly not shit – it is incredible – and although endearing to beyond levels never seen before in a film, it does so with the cool understated lack of earnestness that exemplifies its breathtaking sense of simple, unadulterated fun. That said, its quirkiness stems from taking concepts, in this case ostensibly for family entertainment, and elevating them to new heights. Basic characters, easy to understand scenarios, comedy violence and bright colourful visuals are all here in joyously overblown proportions.
Originating from a Belgian kids TV series launched in 2000 with the same name, A Town Called Panic invented the creative themes that are instantly recognisable to British television viewers as the Cravendale Milk adverts, produced by the same guys. Although this is so much more than just “Cravendale-Le Movie,” all the most arresting themes are here: the plastic toys; painstaking and impressive stop motion animation; dialogue at nothing less than a full throated shout (though being in French adds a softer and certainly more comedic effect) and, although the successive scenarios are so non-sequitur as to make Monty Python look like Jane Austen, the narrative has a fluidity that never lets the pace falter. It would be customary now to attempt to give a brief introduction to the plot, but when the plot involves a Horse as a sort of father figure to a cowboy and indian, in love with a piano teacher and living in a village with an alcoholic farmer called Steven with a story line revolving around what happens when cowboy and indian try to organise a surprise for horse, it quickly becomes pointless trying. Anyway I was laughing too hard throughout most of it to remember.
Coming in at under 90 minutes, this pint sized puppet film had me roaring with laughter and cheering it on. Remarkably for an animated children’s film it had a slot in the Official Selection at Cannes Film festival. It is out on DVD on Monday the 15th of November and comes with my whole hearted recommendation. A joy.