I got a chance to see Panique au village (A Town Called Panic)
before it left Madison and I was glad I did because it was a blast.
It is a feature film based on a Belgian TV series of the same name and stars Cowboy, Indian, and Horse as a trio of roommates who live in a small village. Horse is the sensible, mature one while Cowboy and Indian are rather brainless and impulsive. Across the road is a farm inhabited by Steven, whose normal voice is a yell, and his wife Jeanine along with some animals that resist direction. The only other resident is a policeman who lives in a little guardhouse on the road that passes through town. They are all brought to life via claymation. But it's not the variety of Wallace & Gromit. It has a much less polished look with figures that don’t have all of their parts adjusted for movement. Still, it's very effective and works well with the hectic storyline.
Cowboy and Indian discover that it is Horse's birthday and plan to build him a barbeque. They accidentally order 50 million bricks instead of 50 and, when they've finished building the BBQ, they store the remaining ones on top of their house hoping that Horse won't notice. He doesn't until the weight of the remaining bricks causes the house to come tumbling down.
Horse doesn't let this get him down so he gathers the troops and begins rebuilding. The problem is that, when they wake up in the morning, they find that the walls they've constructed have been stolen. A trap is set and the culprits turn out to be these pointy-headed marine creatures with large, unwieldy ears and the chase is on. Bringing the thieves to justice entails quite an adventure. Our heroes fall down a very deep shaft worthy to be spanned by the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, end up in the Arctic wastes only to be accosted by a gigantic mechanical penguin controlled by mad scientists, and eventually discover an underwater world beneath their feet.
There's plenty of slapstick to be had but more subtle humor as well. A favorite scene of mine is when our heroes are tumbling down that shaft and horse takes a call on his cell phone from a lady horse with whom he has romantic feelings. The title comes from the fact that everything – even the most minor – throws everyone into a panic and has them running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
Once you settle in and get your bearings, the surreal adventures of Cowboy, Indian, and Horse are an absolute pleasure.