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Film Review: A Town Called Panic

February 4, 2010 9:10 a.m.

KPBS Film Critic Beth Accomando reviews the animated film "A Town Called Panic"

Related Story: A Town Called Panic


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

KPBS-FM Film Chat: A Town Called Panic
By Beth Accomando
Air date: February 4, 2010

Q: There’s a new animated film from Belgium that has no computer generated effects and no 3D. KPBS film critic Beth Accomando is here to tell us about “A Town Called Panic.” So what does this film use if it’s not taking advantage of state of the art technology?
BETH: Well as technology gets better and better, some artists find inspiration and freshness in more old school techniques. So the recent Fantastic Mr. Fox employed a stop motion animation style reminiscent of the old King Kong movie. Similarly, A Town Called Panic employs the painstaking stop motion filming technique and the animated objects are little plastic toys. The whole thing has a do-it-yourself quality, as if it were made by some attention deficit disorder kids in their bedroom.

Q: What’s the story about or does the plot really matter?
BETH: The plot only matters in terms of being a catalyst for a series of adventures. The story involves three characters: Cowboy, Indian, and Horse and involves a birthday gift gone wrong. There’s an online ordering snafu that leads to a wild adventure through an underwater realm and to a frozen tundra where mad scientists have invented a giant mechanical penguin designed to throw snowballs across the globe. Here’ a snippet of the trailer. It’s in French but it’ll give you an idea of the pace and energy of the film.

CLIP: Panic-trailer.wav

Q: Well it certainly sounds energetic. Is this made for kids or for adults? Or can both enjoy this?
BETH: It’s not aimed at kids who like Disney cartoons but maybe the ones who watch South Park and Family Guy. The film thrives on chaos and non-sequitors worthy of the Marx Brothers or Monty Python. And there’s a kind of wild malleability in which things can be as easily destroyed as rebuilt.

Q: So is the film successful in using this old school animation style?
BETH: Yes. Filmmakers Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar's serve up a hilarious and densely packed 75 minutes that reveals continual inventiveness. For example there’s a coffee pot with three spouts for the three roommate friends. Plus it’s a world where the rules of reality don’t apply. So there’s slapstick violence that can level a town but there there’s a whimsical simplicity to the way the town can regenerate itself. The film is their first feature and it’s a spin off of their TV shorts. And about halfway through their energy lags for a bit before picking up again. But all in all it’s a delight. It’s like watching clever, slightly children play.

“A Town Called Panic” opens tomorrow/Friday at Landmark’s Ken Cinema. You can find more of Beth’s reviews online at K-P-B-S-dot-O-R-G-slash-cinema-junkie.