At the first sight of this lo-fi Belgian animated export, it looks like a herky-jerky tomfoolery assembled by primary school kids let loose in a playroom with a bunch of plastic action figures. The plot boomerangs around from a mad shenanigan to another that virtually makes no shred of logic – A Town Called Panic is about a trio of toys, aptly named Horse, Indian and Cowboy, with the latter two mistakenly purchasing 50 million bricks instead of 50 for Horse’s birthday barbecue, and misadventures follow that includes an aquatic rescue with reptilian marine scuba-divers, cannonball pigs, and wacky penguins. It doesn’t make any sense, and it doesn’t strive to have some. It’s deliberately wacky, hilariously inventive and you’ll find yourself laughing out loud that nothing onscreen seems to matter. Directors Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar (must in hallucinogens whilst making this) provide gleeful abandon and deadpan nonsense that makes A Town Called Panic a sort of anti-Pixar, an anarchic, irreverent animated work that defies any linear, or conventional, structures. Where Toy Story, Up and the likes aim for emotional fluency, character arcs and CGI perfection, it’s quite refreshing to see something like this that ditches out pixels and embraces old-school playground aesthetic and Pythonesque codswallop. Too much of it might drive one insane, but gladly it runs for 90 minutes, and it’s just wonderfully, bizarrely pitch-perfect.
A deliriously madcap mo-cap. A Town Called Panic makes for a trippy, hallucinogenic animated feature that daringly defies glossy mainstream aesthetic – and so much better for it. It’s also very dementedly funny.