A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Town Called Panic is a funny, unconventional animated (and subtitled) film that will appeal to a wide age range. The simplicity of the subtitles make it an ideal first foreign language film for young readers; even little kids who can't yet read will enjoy the physical comedy and the very funny sounds of the French dialogue as it is heard here. Still, it's not for everyone: It's high-speed, frenetic, with lots of cartoon action -- catastrophes of the highest order (falls, raging waters, some sharp-toothed creature attacks, burial by giant snowball, and more). There is a sprinkling of profanity -- spoken in French, translated into subtitles ("bastard," "ass," "damn," "hell"). One all-night party finds the multi-specied characters (animals and humans are interrelated in this film) drinking beer and kir, some to excess.
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What's the story?
Three best friends -- Cowboy, Indian, and Horse -- share a home in an idyllic country village. On Horse's birthday, Cowboy and Indian want to surprise him with a barbeque, but their online order for bricks goes awry -- 50 million are delivered instead of 50. The bricks cause havoc and mayhem, and propel the three friends into a series of unconventional adventures filled with romance, danger, and some of the funniest creatures ever invented. They visit the core of the earth, the bottom of the ocean, and all points in between. A TOWN CALLED PANIC is a Belgian production based on a TV series, in French, with easy-to-read English subtitles.
Is it any good?
Quirky, creative, and very funny, this movie can be appreciated on multiple levels. Kids will laugh at the predicaments, the relationships, and the eccentrically original characters. For those who can read, it's a great introduction to subtitled movies. For adults it's a hilarious version of French language films that is both respectful and finds joy in self-parody (the spot-on rhythms of the characters' speech is priceless).
Some may find it absurd and shake their heads in disbelief, but given the onslaught of sophisticated 3-D, motion-capture, and computer-animated films in the marketplace, this film's dependence upon imagination, simplicity, and low-tech animation is a treat. A Town Called Panic is a little too long -- the pace is occasionally wearying and there may actually be too many adventures -- but the story is episodic so it could be viewed in parts.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the experience of watching this movie with subtitles. Did reading them make it harder for you to enjoy the movie? Did you get used to the process?
Seeing this movie makes us realize that the same things make us laugh, no matter what country we live in. What conclusions can you draw from this simple story about how Americans and people from other cultures are the same or different?
Part of the movie's humor comes from combining realistic elements with fantastical elements. What seemed "real" and what was "fantasy"?
- In theaters: June 17, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: July 20, 2010
- Cast: Bruce Ellison, Stephane Aubier, Vincent Patar
- Directors: Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar
- Studio: La Parti Productions
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, Horses and Farm Animals
- Run time: 75 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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