Monday, February 22, 2010
Cast: (voice) Stéphane Aubier, Jeanne Balibar, Véronique Dumont, Bruce Ellison, Frédéric Jannin, Bouli Lanners, Vincent Patar
Stop-motion animation comedy, 75 minutes
French, with English subtitles
This has been a very strong year for stop-motion animated films. Coraline and Fantastic Mr. Fox were hits at the box office, and the sadly neglected Mary and Max was also superb. Now comes a Belgian film Panique au village (A Town Called Panic). It was a rare animation film that was invited to the Cannes Film Festival and later played at the Midnight Madness at the Toronto International Film Festival as well. It's based on a Belgian television series that used plastic children's toys to tell fantastical and hilarious stories.
They are also two of the main voice actors, voicing Cowboy (Aubier) and Horse (Patar) and various other characters. Bruce Ellison provides the voice for Indian and Jeanne Balibar is the voice of Madame Longrée. They each channel the inner child and make frequent use of hyperactive falsetto voices.
This is the most low-tech of the recent stop-motion films. But it works because it doesn't hold back and pulls you along for the crazy ride. I personally enjoyed this much more than the other animal-themed stop-motion film Fantastic Mr. Fox. That one struck me as aimless, but not in a good way. Nor did I find Wes Anderson's forced quirkiness especially funny.
Panique au village on the other hand is wildly imaginative, wickedly funny and totally out there. The airborne cattle and clever non-sequiturs are like something out of Monty Python. It also draws influences from the animation work of PES (Adam Pesapane), Futurama and South Park. It may not be for everyone, but I guarantee you that it'll make you laugh.
A fun film for all ages.