A bag as mixed as the one that holds the ingredients to Getafix’s coveted magic brew, this recent shunting of the beloved French comic from the page to the screen hits a few high(ish) notes, but also feels like a slightly diluted imitation of the great literary series.
It looks like an Asterix comic, no question. Albert Uderzo’s recognisable, loose and slightly-hurried-looking lines translate remarkably well into CGI-rendered movie that should evoke memories of thumbing through another floppy-backed adventure. Does it sound like an Asterix comic, though? I’m not so sure.
If you’re on nodding terms with the books, you’ll know that, for the inhabitants of the tiny Gaulish village holding out bravely against the invading Roman army, their magic potion is their secret weapon. Brewed up by village Druid Getafix, the potion gives super strength and allows them to resist the might of the imperial soldiers and maintain a life of pagan domesticity. In this movie version, Getafix injures himself while romping through the treetops collecting ingredients and has a sobering wake-up call of his own mortality. Realising he must impart his wisdom to a prodigal druid, he tours Gaul looking for a replacement to be entrusted with the secret of his potion.
A stand-out feature of the comics remains René Goscinny’s sarcastic, sophisticated occasionally winking humour that elevates the books from that of a one-dimensional children’s romp. To re-read the Asterix canon as an adult is to find nuances lost on a young mind. The strange thing about Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion is that it eschews the sly humour of the pages that inspired it. It plays young, very young. Naturally, that will please youngsters eyeing up the movie in the schedules, demanding to be entertained and it’s destined to find a home on heavy rotation in DVD players; but it’s a touch disappointing not to see Alexandre Astier inject some sense of maturity into the script.
It does look nice, though, and it bounces along with a lightness of foot and a smattering of sporadically amusing pratfalls and magical cock-ups. Logistically it’s a bit of a mess. Weirdly enough, Asterix feels like such a marginalised character in his own movie that you wonder why it wasn’t titled: Getafix: The Secret of the Magic Potion, such little impact does he seem to have on the narrative. It’s not likely to displease younger children, though. Pectine is a rugged and likeable little heroine and, at the death, when it bizarrely morphs into a giant Kaiju/mechanoid showdown, it signs off with a flourish.
Chris Banks | [rating=3]
Animation, Adventure | France, 2018 | U | Dubbed | 30th August 2019 )UK) | Altitude Films | Dir. Alexandre Astier, Louis Clichy | Christian Clavier, Guillaume Briat, Alex Lutz , Bernard Alane