Asterix: The Secret Of The Magic Potion

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jane Fae

Asterix: The Secret Of The Magic Potion
"It is good to see the women taking charge, though this happens sufficiently often in Asterix that it is close to becoming a trope in itself." | Photo: Courtesy of EIFF

Ah: Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion. Umpteenth film in the Asterix oeuvre or, if you count just the computer-animated contributions, number two after the highly successful Mansions Of The Gods released in 2014.

Clearly, M6 Studio, the driving force behind on-screen Asterix reckons you can't have too much of a good thing: and as one of the best-loved French cartoon figures and almost the only French cartoon character to cross over into the English speaking world, it has to be Asterix. Throw in seasoned directors Alexandre Astier and Louis Clichy and you are unlikely to go far wrong.

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What you get here is both safe and predictable: the same cast of characters, give or take the odd Tomcrus (Roman Senator here seen annoying Caesar, voiced by Andrew Cownden) or Demonix (evil druid out to undermine regular Druid Getafix and voiced by Michael Shepherd); the same tropes, from Obelix's boar-snacking to Gallic squabbling to the poor old Romans, lined up once more like so many skittles, to be mown down by Gauls on potion.

The plot is straightforward. After a little accident out cutting mistletoe (just don't mention the falling out of a tree bit, which is as embarrassing to the victim, as it is amusing to his fellow druids), Getafix (John Innes on vocals) determines to recruit an apprentice. A new young druid to whom he can pass on the secret of the potion that has kept his little bit of Gaul free and independent from Roman rule for so long..

Only problem. In falling out of the tree (please don't mention it!), he has seriously injured his foot. So his quest requires Asterix (Ken Kramer) as bodyguard as well as Obelix (CErnst Harth) as sort of hospital porter. Not forgetting the young Pectin (Fleur Delahunty), who smuggles herself along for the ride and now is too far from home to go back.

There is a brief stop over at a druid convention where, Getafix hopes, he can scare up the names of suitable replacement candidates and where, unexpectedly, he encounters lifelong rival Demonix, who wants the secret of the potion either so he can hand it out to the rest of Gaul or so he can sell it to the highest bidder. That bit is not clear. Still, they're off, searching far and wide for a successor: a sort of “Gaul's Got Talent” for magicians. Just the four of them?

Not quite. Because at the first road stop en route, they discover all the men from the village have decided to come along too, leaving ill-starred bard Cacofonix (Andrew Cownden pulling double duty) “in charge” of the women. As if!

Throw in a bit of villainy from Demonix, who offers his services to Caesar as part of his devilish plan, and the pirates, who once again lose two, three, maybe four ships in the course of the narrative and this is pretty much as you would expect.

That said, there were flaws. First, and most irritating, is the decision to dub the film into English, though given the English allergy not merely to speaking foreign language but, nowadays, to even hearing the sound of a foreign voice, unsurprising. The issue with doing this is the original dialogue is written for French voices and likely works better in version originale (VO).

Those familiar with Asterix on the page will know that the dialogue is written with economy and wit and for the first 30 to 40 minutes, the film feels seriously lacklustre. Is that, I wondered, the fault of the script as written? Or the translator? Without access to the original, who knows...

(Certainly, watching the BBC's VO version of Commissario Montalbano - who is absolutely not an Inspector: for some reason the Beeb demoted him - it is often possible to pick up detail in the original not accessible in the translation at the bottom of the screen)

It also led to some odd name changes (which we all know is par for the course with Asterix books and films): Getafix, for instance, is Panoramix in the French version. And while switching such a familiar name back for one film would only confuse, it was unclear why the writers saw fit to amend Demonix name from the French Sulfurix which, in view of his affinity for fire, worked better.

It is good to see the women taking charge, though this happens sufficiently often in Asterix that it is close to becoming a trope in itself. Less good that Cacofonix never attempts to sing. Because come on, everyone knows he is awful and deserves to end the film roped and gagged for his musical efforts.

Still, the film is topped and tailed with high energy music (and accompanying animation) - 1980's pop anthem You Spin me Round by Dead or Alive, which did well enough in the UK, but perhaps always that bit better in Europe.

Some of the imagery, such as the squadron of giant flying chickens, is sheer genius, and a spoof Jesus druid is daring. Even more so in the original, the English version plays down the sacrilege involved!

Reviewed on: 28 Aug 2019
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Asterix: The Secret Of The Magic Potion packshot
The village druid enlists the help of Asterix and Obelix to find a young druid to share his secrets with.

Director: Alexandre Astier, Louis Clichy

Writer: René Goscinny, Albert Uderzo, Alexandre Astier

Starring: English dub voiced by, Ken Kramer, C Ernst Harth, John Innes, Fleur Delahunty, Andrew Cownden, Michael Shepherd, Saffron Henderson

Year: 2018

Runtime: 85 minutes

Country: France

Festivals:

EIFF 2019

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Asterix And Obelix In Britain