There have been many filmings of the beloved Asterix books, both animated and live-action, over the years, but this new CG adaptation – gratingly dubbed to English – is certainly the weakest.
Created by René Goscinny (who died in 1977) and the now-retired Albert Uderzo back in 1959, Asterix continues thanks to others including co-directors Alexandre Astier and Louis Clichy, who already had a bigscreen shot with their Asterix: Mansions Of The Gods five years ago.
That was based on a Goscinny/Uderzo work, however, while this is a rather drab and silly original tale, although there are glimmers of the classics throughout: a character from Asterix And The Big Fight turns up; the main baddie looks a bit like the hapless villain in Asterix And The Soothsayer; all the talk about sickles can’t help but remind you of Asterix And The Golden Sickle; and mentions of onion soup summons up fond memories of Asterix And The Cauldron.
The dubbing is notably clumsy too, with Ken Kramer now voicing our diminutive warrior hero instead of Christian Clavier in the original French version (Clavier played him in the live-action pics too) and a star-free vocal cast filling the other roles with buffoonish English accents and weird American lilts. When fishmonger Unhygenix opens his mouth and sounds like a comic Texan it’s all wrong.
Opening bizarrely with a montage set to the tune of Dead Or Alive’s ‘80s hit You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) (???), this has the getting-on druid Getafix falling out of a tree while looking for ingredients for his legendary magic potion of invincibility and having a crisis. Without the stuff the Gaulish village can’t continue to hold out against the Roman invaders and Getafix wants to pass on the recipe, so he convinces Asterix and his jumbo menhir deliveryman bestie Obelix to help him search for someone trustworthy, a job tougher (and duller) than it sounds.
This leads to a reappearance of Getafix’s longtime nemesis Demonix (whose name no one seems to think makes him suspicious), who believes he deserves to know the potion’s secret, and who’s more than willing to then hand it over to Caesar himself. In some of the later books the somewhat camp Caesar was almost amused that Asterix and his pals kept on showing him up, but here he’s just a sneering meanie who doesn’t like being interrupted in his bath.
There are also some self-conscious attempts to strengthen the female characters, with the village being left under the guard of wimpy bard Cacofonix until he’s overthrown by the women, who drearily take on the attacking Romans themselves. A charmless kid also stows away in Asterix and Co’s cauldron, and while they initially think Pectin is a boy she’s actually a girl, something they find shocking before she winds up doing exactly what you expect her to.
Purists don’t seem to mind that Astier and Clichy’s film isn’t really in the true spirit of the books and lacks their winning wit, as if, somehow, any Asterix adventure is better than none. And that’s simply not good enough, by Toutatis!
Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion (PG) is in cinemas now