Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra (PG)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner17/10/2002

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 108 mins

Perfectly capturing the spirit of the comic books, this is a treat for anyone raised on Asterix adventures - some of the jokes may be lost in translation, but there are plenty of laughs to be had and it looks fabulous.

On the release of 1999’s less-than-successful Asterix and Obelix Take On Caesar, many reviewers commented that it took a lot of –ahem- Gaul to bring Goscinny and Uderzo’s creations to the big screen – an obvious, yet irresistible joke.

The previous adaptation was additionally hampered by being poorly dubbed, something that Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra has thankfully avoided, opting instead for subtitles.

Palace Built For Bet

Christian Clavier (Les Visiteurs) and Gerard Depardieu reprise their roles as the plucky Gaul and his portly, dim-witted companion, who accept an invitation –along with village druid Getafix (Claude Rich) - to travel to Egypt and oversee the construction of a palace, itself the result of a bet between Caesar (director Alain Chabat) and Cleopatra (Monica Bellucci).

They are there to assist Edifis (Jamel Debbouze, from Amelie), the idiosyncratic architect responsible for the palace, who has just three months to complete the palace or be thrown to the crocodiles. However, they’ve reckoned without jealous rival architect Artifis (Gerard Darmon), who has his own plans to halt the construction…

The plot is remarkably faithful to that of the original comic book, and includes all the most memorable sequences, such as: Obelix pulling a string of boats along the Nile; the real reason that the Sphinx has no nose; our heroes getting trapped in a pyramid and the climactic battle.

Caesar Entertains

In fact, the filmmakers (clearly huge fans themselves) have only added a minor love interest for Asterix himself, and an entirely welcome prologue involving the Romans. The actors are extremely well cast, particularly Clavier, who has perhaps the most difficult part. The set-up of the story also means that an equally large amount of screen-time is given over to Debbouze, though this isn’t a problem, as he’s extremely funny. Chabat is also particularly amusing as Caesar.

The real treat, however, is The Lovely Monica Bellucci as Cleopatra, who appears in far too few scenes but gets to wear some fabulous outfits that are worth the price of admission alone. If you like that sort of thing.

Awful, Awful Puns

The books themselves are heavily reliant on wordplay and puns (every character’s name is a humorous construction of some kind), and, as such, a lot of the jokes are inevitably lost in the translation. However, a lot of care has gone into the English version of the script, ensuring that the jokes that don’t translate have equally bad puns in their place.

There are also plenty of visual gags and the filmmakers have included several film reference jokes (Crouching Tiger, The Empire Strikes Back etc.) that, surprisingly, work well. Similarly, the special effects are pleasingly comic book like, to the point where you don’t actually mind the odd bit of CGI.

In short, this is a veritable treat for Asterix fans and an enjoyable family comedy for the uninitiated. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it has an irrepressible joie de vivre that wins you over and it is frequently very funny. Recommended, by Toutatis!

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Content updated: 22/11/2017 10:52

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