ASTERIX AND THE SECRET OF THE MAGIC POTION / CERT: PG / DIRECTORS: ALEXANDRE ASTIER, LOUIS CHICHY / SCREENPLAY: ALEXANDRE ASTIER / STARRING: KEN KRAMER, C. ERNST HARTH / RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 20TH
This latest offering to the world of Asterix and Obelix (a world that spans countless comics, fourteen films, board games and video games and even its own theme park) will likely disappoint OG fans for its lack of substance, but is warm and light-hearted enough to be a hit with kids.
The Secret of the Magic Potion sees Getafix (Panoramix in French, for the purists) come face to face with his own mortality - by falling flat on his ass - and decide that it might finally be time to pass on his sickle, and along with it the recipe for his legendary strength potion. Without it, their village will surely fall to Caesar’s legions and with it, the last bastion of résistance.
Everyone’s favourite druid enlists the help of trusty duo Asterix and Obelix to aid him on his quest for a successor, given he’s which will take them on a pit stop tour of Gaulle. We reunite with familiar characters, from the village regulars to Red Beard’s band of pirates, and are also introduced to fresh faces, including a scrappy little sidekick and a brand-new villain.
The animation is bright and comfortingly familiar, and the score is pretty solid despite some unusual choices, including an opening montage set to Dead or Alive’s You Spin me Round (Like A Record), which proves oddly hilarious if not utterly bizarre. The story, though overly simplistic - clearly, this one is aimed at the children’s market - is fun enough.
However, Asterix suffers from a lack of depth and a fatal disconnect from its original material. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with Alexandre Astier’s decision not to base this latest instalment on the comics, but there is a fundamental divorce from the context of the source material. The franchise had always reflected the socio-political context of their time: from the first comics reflecting the nationalism and enthusiasm of the post-war period, to The Mansion of the Gods (2014)’s commentary on urbanisation and gentrification, Asterix drew strength from its cultural commentary (and the magic potion, obviously).
Sadly, this latest story abandons its roots in favour of more Hollywood-esque pop culture references and slapstick comedy, clearly demarcating it as a kid-friendly film, where the comics were equally (if not better-) suited to adult readers.
It’s a simple premise and execution, the colours are bright, the familiarity of the characters is warming despite the jarring American accents, and it’s all breezy fun. It won’t leave much of an impact but you won’t feel like you’ve wasted 85 minutes of your life, either. You also won’t have a barrel-wearing Gérard Depardieu haunting your dreams, which is always a bonus.