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Asterix and Obelix in Britain

Asterix and Obelix in BritainA review by Nalini Haynes

Asterix and Obelix is a popular comic book series translated into English and other languages. Four of the series have been made into live-action cinematic movies in France. This movie, Astérix et Obélix: Au service de sa Majesté, has been released in Australia as Asterix & Obelix in Britain.

After receiving a plea for help, Asterix and Obelix head to Briton, taking a barrel of magic potion to help save a sister-village from the Romans. After arriving in Briton to find Romans everywhere, Asterix and Obelix go undercover as Britons, even eating the food. The barrel of magic potion is cleverly concealed in an inn before being delivered to the queen.

Caesar confiscates all barrels so his legionaries can taste test to find the potion. When the fighting begins – after the potion is discovered by a very drunk legionaire –some of the live-action images fairly accurately imitate the comic book.

The script uses the essential elements of the story alongside snapshots evoking humour and some more recent pop culture spoofs (more recent than the novel, copyright 1966). Instead of the featuring the traditional version of the story, the movie replaces the supreme chief of the Britons Cassivellaunos with a middle-aged queen whose small, yappy dogs are not corgis.

Pindépis, an illegal immigrant, is a white guy cast as an Indian. I cringed although aware Pindépis is in the book. Social comment on attitudes to immigrants was effective but couldn’t they at least have cast an Indian? This stereotypical character is a pivotal yet RACE-BASED CRINGE HUMOUR.

Humour is the great leveller, however; this movie takes the piss unilaterally. The piss is definitively taken of the Britains (our beloved Barmy Army), the French and the Norse.

Gerard Depardieu has consistently played Obelix throughout this series of movies although all the other characters have new actors.

Of the three actors cast as Asterix in the four movies, Edouard Baer, this Asterix, is my least favourite, not only because he’s taller than Obelix. Fabrice Luchini was a huge disappointment as a wet-mouthed, weak-faced Julius Caesar: Gottfried John was such an excellent Caesar in Asterix and Obelix vs. Caesar, any change was bound to disappoint. The casting could have been better.

My personal favourite of all the Asterix movies was Vs. Caesar because it offered both dubbing and subtitles as well as better casting, costumes and characterisation. I enjoyed that movie so much I watched both versions; to my delight the language versions were subverted, making subtle – humorous – differences. This time only subtitles seem to be on offer, limiting the audience significantly.

Humour, social satire and football combine in this 106 minute movie version based on but not consistent with the original Asterix and Obelix story. This is comedic family viewing, bearing in mind SUBTITLES.

3 out of 5 stars.

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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