Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

A Town Called Panic

(Panique au village, France, 2009)

Here is a very odd movie. One is tempted to say it’s Toy Story on an acid trip, but somebody’s probably already used that line. What it is, is Toy Story as if written and directed by actual children. Remember how when you were playing with your toys, having them interact, you would always hold the one who was talking in your hand and sort of make him bounce up and down? Picture Andy playing with Woody and Buzz and Mr. Potato Head. He smashes them together and throws them around. Here we have characters named Cowboy and Indian and Horse and Policeman, who live in cardboard houses that are the size of a milk carton on the outside and a refrigerator box on the inside. They speak in high, squeaky voices, and their feet are joined together with bases like the green soldiers in Toy Story. They move around boisterously through a plot that has absolutely no logic, but lots of action, lots of arguing, lots of silly fighting. I enjoyed it quite a bit … for about half its running length of 75 minutes. After that, I was still visually delighted—they put a lot of thought and a lot of work into the whimsical design of the thing—but it lost a little of its charm. I think it might have worked better as a series of, say, three 30-minute episodes. Which, it seems, is how it got its start on TV in Belgium. Like Mr. Bean, who worked wonderfully well as a series of short sketches on TV but failed as a feature film. This isn’t that bad but, since the plot makes no sense anyway, you might enjoy it more if you watched it in installments.