ASTÉRIX ET OBÉLIX: L’EMPIRE DU MILEU
(ASTÉRIX AND OBÉLIX: THE MIDDLE KINGDOM)
(France 2022) ***1/2
Directed by Guillaume Canet
The French get it right with their latest live action comedy of the Belgium-French favourite cartoon comic books of Asterix and Obelix written by René Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo. This is the only film (there has been more than 15 such films, all animated except two other live-action) not based on the stories of the comic book or comic books and originally written for the film.
The bande dessinée comic book series and film is about a village of Gaulish warriors who adventure around the world and fight the Roman Republic, with the aid of a magic potion created by the druid Panoramix (played by French comedian legend Pierre Richard), during the era of Julius Caesar, in a historical telling of the time after the Gallic Wars.
The year is 50 BC. Gaul is entirely occupied by the Romans. Well, not entirely... One small village of indomitable Gauls still holds out against the invaders. And life is not easy for the Roman legionaries who garrison the fortified camps of Aquarium, Laudanum and Compendium. The Empress of China has just been imprisoned following a coup d'état incited by Deng Tsin Qin, a traitorous prince. Helped by Finatheses, the Phoenician merchant and her faithful bodyguard Mai Wei, the Empress' only daughter Princess Sass-Yi flees to Gaul to ask for help from two valiant warriors Asterix (Canet) and Obelix (Gilles Lellouche), who are endowed with superhuman strength thanks to their magic potion. The two inseparable heroes gladly accept to help the Princess save her mother and free her country. And thus begins a great voyage and adventure on the silk road to China. But Caesar (Vincent Cassel) and his powerful army, thirsty for a new conquest, are also heading toward the Middle Kingdom.
There is much to be entertained in this film adaptation. Firstly, an all star cast of famous French stars like Vincent Cassel, the director Canet himself, Gilles Lellouche, Marion Cotillard as Cleopatra and of course Pierre Richardlend their hand. Adults too, should be entertained with their fond memories of the comic characters that first appeared in 1961. To boot, there are a few adult ‘dick’ jokes that are done in good taste. A few Chinese characters have joke names like Pu Nee (for someone with a little one) or Sil Lee might be too harmless to be racist to offend some. Otherwise, the film pays respect to the Chinese (take the toke line: “Watch the Chinese fight!”) as the two cultures the Gauls and the Chinese blend nicely together. The heroes Asterix and Oblelix both fall in love with two Chines females as well, one the princess and the other the princess’s bodyguard.
The film also tackles issues like female roles and alpha males while criticizing unhealthy meat edibles. Colonization is also looked down upon in the story, too bad there s little too much fun poked at the Chinese.
Almost the perfect family entertainment for the bilingual family, ASTÉRIX ET OBÉLIX: L’EMPIRE DU MILEU opens February 1st.