Animals and people are all jumbled up in A Town Called Panic, a hyperactive Belgian puppet animation — as in the central ménage of Cowboy, Indian and Horse. The filmmakers, Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar, show little regard for scale and less for convention. Cowboy (Aubier) is a screeching hysteric, and Horse (Patar) is a slow-moving romantic hero who longs to play the piano and carries a torch for the local music teacher, a mare with an orange mane and sultry voice (Jeanne Balibar).
Cowboy, Indian and Horse share a house that sinks to the center of the Earth, when Indian mistakenly orders a million times as many bricks as necessary to build a barbecue for Horse's birthday. Actually, that makes the narrative seem almost linear. Panic, which has more strident colors and less synopsizable action than a year's worth of comic book adventures, embodies a sensibility that might be termed “extreme quirk.” The movie has the manic whimsy of the dollhouse scenes in Michel Gondry's Science of Sleep and is even closer to child's play — noisy, overexcited and very pragmatic. (Nuart)