J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Town Called Panic: Double Fun

Stéphane Aubier & Vincent Patar’s molded plastic toy characters are the natural heirs to Mr. Bill, but unlike SNL’s vintage put-upon victim, they give lip right back. If social justice warriors think Cowboy and Indian sound offensive, just wait until they hear them start to squawk and complain. Of course, their relentless immaturity makes them quite a positive influence on youngsters. Therefore, as a special Art House Theater Day gift to the future leaders of America, GKIDS is releasing the short film collection A Town Called Panic: Double Fun for one day only this Saturday, in participating cinemas.

In Christmas Panic (a.k.a. The Christmas Log), the ever bickering Cowboy and Indian have not matured one whit since the Panic feature film.  They still live with the infinitely more responsible Horse, trying his patience daily. When their fooling around accidentally ruins the Christmas log for Horse’s dinner party, they finally push him too far. Exasperated, Horse calls up Santa and cancels their gift delivery. Naturally, Cowboy and Indian try to fix the situation, but only make matters worse.

Right, so Merry Christmas one and all. Do not look for any cheap sentiment here. Linus will not explain the true meaning of Christmas, nor will the Grinch be joining the citizenry of Whoville for a Christmas roast. Instead, Town Called Panic delivers a feast of increasingly reckless lunacy that only small hardened plastic toys could survive.

If Christmas was chaotic, the first day of class in Back to School Panic will be utterly nutty. Naturally, Cowboy and Indian are not down with it, but Horse lays down the law. As we would expect, they are the bad kids who sit in the back and never study, but they suddenly get interested when Yuri the Cosmonaut promises a trip to the moon to whichever student can calculate its distance from the earth. Knowing they are idiots, Cowboy and Indian resolve to cheat, but their scheme takes on trippily surreal dimensions. Arguably, Back to School is the weirdest Panic ever, but that is a good thing.

As a bonus, two fan favorite short Panic shorts will play in the “intermission” between Christmas and School. For a change, Cowboy and Indian are not the ones acting badly in Lisa & Jan Instead, it is the titular hipster hikers causing all the ill will. Cowboy returns to being the culprit in Cow-Hulk, but really the alien shape-shifting virus is to blame for all the damage.

All the Panic shorts are rollicking good fun, but Back to School Panic is probably their best misadventure since the laugh-out-loud, loose-control-of-your-functions feature film. Charmingly subversive, the A Town Called Panic: Double Fun shorts package is highly recommended for animation fans of all ages when it screens this Saturday (9/24) at select theaters, including the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington.

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