If you've been into any local library recently you'd most likely have seen an empty section on the shelf where the Asterix books normally sit. Such is the popularity of the moustachioed hero and his oafy sidekick that they've been flying off the shelves since the 60s.
Animated versions of the French comic are nothing new, having spawned multiple efforts with varying quality (including the awful, but oddly popular Gerard Depardieu live-action renditions). Here, writer/director Alexandre Astier is ably assisted by Louis Clichy, who boasts animation credits on Wall-E and Up. It's a second time around for the duo who commanded Asterix's first foray into the world of CG-animation with 2014's Asterix: The Mansions of the Gods. The results are, unsurprisingly, similar here.
This film sees an injured druid Getafix deciding it is time to search for a worthy replacement—someone he can entrust with the recipe of his magic potion that keeps the village safe. The future security of their village hangs in the balance as Asterix and Obelix head up the search. It's a simple story that works as a parable of our times; read deeply and you might find it emblematic of Brexit, Trumpism, climate change or other current miseries that threaten our global village. But most likely it's a simple nod to the recent retirement of Uderzo (Asterix's co-creator) and the successful search for his successor. Indeed, replacements Jean-Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad have rekindled the original magic that this film represents.
The animation is surprisingly agile and while not Pixar grade it visually captures the warmth and feel of the comics. There are faults though: the dubbed voices do take some adjusting to—American accents never quite match my mind's ear of how residents of a little Gaulish village should sound (dedicated fans will do well to hunt out a subtitled showing wherever possible); and the film trips over an overly fanciful final act that departs from the feel of its source material. Nonetheless, there are still plenty of village brawls, confused Romans, roast boar, and an off-tune bard. It's all fairly lightweight fun, full of nostalgia for the older fans and plenty of slapstick giggles for the young 'uns.
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Cast: Christian Clavier, Guillaume Briat, Alex Lutz
Director: Alexandre Astier and Louis Clichy
Running time: 85 mins
Rating: PG (Violence)
Verdict: Gets the recipe mostly right while adding a few new ingredients to the mix.