Things that happen in the animated stop-action film A Town Called Panic, featuring lurching plastic toys prone to voluble shouting in French, available streaming on Netflix:
- For Horse’s birthday party, a little temporary bar is set up in the basement and everyone drinks too much. Afterwards the policeman’s wife comments, “I should’ve charged more for beers.” I have never seen so much drunkenness in a kids’ animated movie! This must have been part of what prompted one dissatisfied Netflix commentator to opine, “This is presented as a children’s movie but it is not. Maybe in France children are exposed to such language and debauchery but not in my house.” Another review: “This should have been called, ‘A Town Called Hypertension.’ It was like being yelled at non-stop by an angry, coke-snorting Frenchman.” Not coke, though: just lots and lots of coffee. At one point Policeman devours a piece of toast several times his size spread with Nutella and then actually smashes through the coffee mug in his passionate enthusiasm.
- Cowboy and Indian go online to order 50 bricks to build a barbecue for Horse’s birthday, but the key sticks and they accidentally order 50 million bricks. To hide them, they stack them in a huge cube on Horse’s house, which collapses that night.
- Horse sets Cowboy (which he pronounces “Cowboy” in his old-French-man accent) and Indian to rebuilding the house, but when they wake up, their walls are missing. It turns out they are stolen every night by sea monkey creatures (with plastic flippers) that emerge from the pond. The thieves carry down the wall into an undersea world where they construct their own home. It takes a while to figure this out, however.
- Oh, I should stop, there is too much. Eventually Horse, Cowboy and Indian, along with one of the sea-monkey thieves, Gerard, fall to the core of the earth where their cellphone falls into the lava… And then end up on the North Pole, where they discover some brilliant and possibly evil (?) scientists who live inside a giant robot penguin they’ve created, passing their time manipulating the penguin robot to form huge snowballs which they throw hundred of miles at targets chosen for fun. Eventually our heroes escape by planting themselves into one of these snowballs, which they have aimed back at the bucolic French village where they live (and where Horse is late for his music lessons taught by the sexy lady horse). But, Gerard the sea monkey has re-directed the penguin, so when they are all tossed through the air, they land in the middle of the sea…
In sum, this is a truly demented movie and very fun… we all loved it. As another Netflix commentator observed, “The characters act just as if we are watching children playing with them, wild imagination and all. You have absolutely no idea of where this is going, what is going to happen next. The events only make sense in the framework of some kids playing.” This is true– the storyline can only be rationalized as some kind of extrapolation from a crazy kids’ game.
The closest parallel would be the early Aardman Entertainment Wallace & Gromit shorts, yet those are models of sober, careful, traditionally crafted plot development by comparison. (Of course there’s a certain parallel with the Toy Story franchise, too.)
The Frenchness of it all is wonderful, too. The drinking, coffee, the “ohh la las!” and “ah no!”s, Nutella, the charming village in which people get drunk, argue, take music lessons, and bicker about their walls, gardens, and ponds.