Who's In It: Voices of Stephane Aubier, Jeanne Balibar, Nicolas Buysse, Veronique Dumont, Bruce Ellison, Vincent Patar
The Basics: It's Horse's birthday so the Cowboy and the Indian and the Policeman and the Postman and the Lady Horse and the pigs and sheep throw him a disco dance party with cake and beer and lots of yelling. But then Cowboy and Indian try to build a barbecue for Horse as a gift but they make the mistake of ordering one billion bricks, which causes the walls of the house to fall away. Then they travel down a deep cave to the molten center of the earth and subsequently encounter a huge robot-penguin that makes giant snowballs. They run into Santa Claus and then some barracuda chase them all, the party happens like it's supposed to, they eat building-tall stacks of waffles and an octopus plays the drums. I promise I am not high while writing this synopsis.
What's The Deal: If Up is the sweetest animated feature of the year, Ponyo the most psychedelic and Fantastic Mr. Fox the most droll, then this primitive stop-motion movie from Belgium is the hands-down craziest shriek of nonsense. No wiggly, jerky, vibrating, shaking toy-puppet-character talks when they can squeal, grunt, screech or howl. ("LETS BUILD A BARBECUE!" "I'LL GO GET THE MAIL!" "BLOW OUT THE CANDLES ON YOUR BIRTHDAY CAKE!") No single absurdist detail will do when nine more can be crammed into a frame (piano-shaped cars driven by horses, animals getting perfect cellphone reception at the center of the earth, groups of pigs shot like cannonballs into the air) and nothing resembling a narrative or moment of peace is allowed. It's like Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters if it were actually made by and for children.
How This Movie Will Change Your Life, If Not Your Entire Perception Of Things From Belgium: And those things from Belgium--Jean-Claude Van Damme, waffles, the Dardenne brothers--are already pretty great, so add one more notch to that country's cultural superiority belt. But if you're like me, you'll feel a sense of sadness when it's over, knowing that you may never again see a film in which a man runs screaming into a room, upside-down, somehow balancing himself entirely on his head and moving that way too, before hopping up onto a table where he, still upside-down, devours an entire table-sized piece of toast spread thick with Nutella before crashing full-force into a life-sized coffee mug, drinking its contents and bashing through the other side. What's left after that?
Spot The References, Intentional Or Not: To The Nightmare Before Christmas, Wallace & Grommit shorts and The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T. And if you're a supernerd you'll notice that the voice of the female horse who drives the piano-shaped car is actress Jeanne Balibar, who starred in Jacques Rivette's highbrowy films The Duchess of Langeais and Va Savoir.