Despite being one of the biggest selling comic-book series of all time (352 million copies and counting), ‘Asterix’ has always seemed to polarise English-speaking audiences. Perhaps it’s that this story of a village of Gauls who resist Roman occupation by drinking a magic potion that gives them superhuman strength has an oddly old-fashioned sensibility (man protects his village from outsiders). It’s ironically told, sure, but its oddly nationalistic look at history can feel a little detached from the modern world.
With this tenth animated ‘Asterix’ film, directors Louis Clichy and Alexandre Astier work hard to correct this perception with a quirky tale involving the plucky pint-sized Gaul and his portly bodyguard Obelix accompany ageing druid Getafix on a quest. They have to find a young druid who they can trust with learning the recipe for their magic potion, while evil wizard Sulfurix is both a persistent thorn in their side and gets all the best lines.
It all moves at a fair old whip and there’s a fun action sequence or two, including one that involves magically enhanced chickens, but a solid quest alone isn’t enough: great animated movies make you get lost in their world and this take on the French countryside looks synthetic and lifeless. The jokes are hit and miss, too. For every gag that lands (like one where Jesus fails to excite a crowd despite being able to magic up fish), another falls flat. Asterix’s plans to infiltrate our borders still need some work.