Synopsis: Julius Caesar’s legions have conquered all England, except for a tiny, remote village led by Zebigbosse. Asterix and Obelix come to their English friends’ rescue with a barrel of magic potion. However, in a fit of weakness brought on by the bizarre food they have been served, Asterix and Obelix become careless and the barrel is stolen from them. Getting it back will be no picnic !
eyelights: the amusing adventure. the imaginative direction. the accurate character renditions.
eyesores: the static backgrounds. the audio quality.
‘Astérix chez les Bretons’ is a feature film adaptation of the Goscinny/Uderzo book of the same name. It retains the flavour of the original, but makes a few changes along the way. Aside from keeping many elements, it also features an animation style that is reminiscent of Uderzo’s pencils, giving it a unique look not typical of North American animated productions (which this isn’t).
In this story, the fifth Astérix animated feature, Astérix and Obélix are sent out to Great Britain with a barrel of Panoramix’ magic potion to help out their British counterparts fight off Caesar’s troops. Given that only one village is left standing, time is of essence. Unfortunately, our duo, accompanied by Astérix’ Brit cousin, Jolitorax, get side-tracked along the way when their barrel is lifted by the Romans, and then a thief.
What makes this one a lot of fun is how Goscinny, the original author, played around with all sorts of stereotypes, clichés, pop culture, historical factoids and even landmarks to make the story Brit-centric. It’s all done for laughs, for sure, but anyone with a good grasp of the culture will knowingly nod -and likely laugh- as they watch this particular adventure. In French, in particular, the use of language is truly masterful – something a translation would likely lose.
I’m surprised to say this, but this is one of my favourites of the whole series (thus far). Even though it doesn’t entirely hold true to the original, it takes us on a satisfying adventure that, despite, the film’s length, seems full and relatively complete – one gets the sense that a lot has taken place, even though much of the time is spent on the road, dealing with various obstacles. It’s a well-conceived and amusing piece.
It helps that this was directed with zest. I was quite impressed with the director’s little touches such as camera movements (shake-cam, …etc,) that made the picture look more dynamic and rather pleasing to the eye. One gets the sense that it was fun to make this film, that some creative spirit was injected into its making. This contributed greatly to my enjoyment.
As mentioned the art was quite nice: it was reminiscent of Uderzo’s work, which was an excellent touch (and something that was lacking in other Astérix films). The backgrounds were of an old-school variety, all painted finely. It’s unfortunate that they were mostly static, because it made the film less real-looking; had they made the backgrounds in layered plates, it would have added so much depth!
But that’s not the end of the world, really. My only true beef is with the wonky audio – an issue that is likely specific to this DVD release (Region 1, by KV/Olivi Films). What was weird was that, in the background, you could hear the dialogues being uttered in advance, a second or so before the proper track played. Thankfully, I only noticed about halfway through, so it didn’t deter from my enjoyment much.
Otherwise, though, ‘Astérix chez les Bretons’ is a pleasing adaptation of the original book. Not everyone is a fan, I know (in fact, a friend of mine is dismissive of this one. Of course he’s not nearly as much of an Astérix fan as I am), but I think that it retains much of Goscinny’s cleverness all the while mixing in its own flavours, thereby keeping it fresh for those who have read the book frequently.
Date of viewing: April 1, 2013