Asterix and Obelix vs. Caesar (1999)

Christian Clavier, Gérard Depardieu, Roberto Benigni, Michel Galabru,
Astérix & Obélix contre César is a movie starring Christian Clavier, Gérard Depardieu, and Roberto Benigni. Inhabitants of the last unconquered village in Gaul (ancient France) use a magical potion to hold their independence from...
  • 6.0 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • René Goscinny, Albert Uderzo, Gérard Lauzier, Writer:
  • Claude Zidi, Director:
  • Claude Berri, Producer:


7 / 10

Captures the Flavour of Astérix

At the end of the day it's not a film for introducing one's kids to Astérix - buy the comic books for that. It's more a capture of the flavour of the Astérix books for those of us adults who remember them with affection, and who consequently aren't concerned overly with details of plot or characterisation. In fact Astérix and Obélix are woefully under-characterised from the start of the film. If you don't know that Obélix's trade is in quarrying menhirs, then the joke about the heart-shaped menhir for Panacea (Laetitia Casta) is likely to fall flat. But those of us who know and love the characters already are going to enjoy it.

One reason for not showing it to your kids would be that there is the occasional crudity in the language - in my view utterly unnecessary, and against the practice of the comic books - at least the English translations of same.

One of the joys of the English translations of the books was the pains taken by the translators to include jokes specifically for the English, particularly in character's names, eg the chief is called VitalStatistix, the druid is called GetAFix, Caius Bonus becomes Crismus Bonus, etc. Terry Jones has happily continued this tradition, although it's a shame that he didn't do more, as it seems to me that movie script rather emphasised silly japes and slapstick over the wonderful wit of the comic books.

Dèpardieu is an absolute revelation as Obélix (and in the English version, splendidly dubbed by Terry Jones himself).

7 / 10

Is it so bad?

Critics, in France and Quebec, have been very hard on this movie. They all compare the film to the excellent comic books of the adventures of Astérix and Obélix. It's the same old story for any movie adapted from a book : the book will always be better! That's right: Astérix is not as charming as in the books, and some characters (Falbala) are there for... well... what for? Some of the characters of the books are missing in the movie: Cétautaumatix and Ordralfabetix. But for just good entertainment, this is a good movie! It reminds me a little bit of the Flinstone movie : better in cartoons (or comic strips) but not so bad at all. When I saw the movie, I noticed that people really loved Roberto Benigni, because of his succes in the Life is wonderful movie. Children of the audience love the movie, I have lots of fun, so, what's really wrong?

10 / 10

Fantastic in French; don't bother with the translation

This film is a genuinely brilliant live-action translation of an (arguably) unfilmable classic comic book series... Claude Zidi's writing and direction are top notch, and the main characters as played by Clavier and Depardieu work extremely well.

The English translation, on the other hand, is awful. When I saw the film in England having already watched it in France, I was, frankly, embarrassed! Terry Jones relies too much on direct translations and gags that don't fit... perhaps they should have used Bell and Hockeridge, the hugely talented translators of the actual books. Oh well.

I definitely recommend the film, though, albeit only in the original French. Don't worry if you don't speak a word of the language; you'll soon pick up what's going on, without the experience being spoiled by the abysmal English dubbing.

7 / 10

Fairly good adaptation of the comic books

I thought this movie was a fairly good adaptation of the work by Uderzo and Goscinny. Of course, the comic books are better and I would read one album probably 10 times before seeing this movie again. But still, this film was entertaining and fun to watch.

The acting was good by Depardieu and Clavier (who's also playing in Les Visiteurs) and Roberto Benigni was very good as the Roman soldier. I also liked Michel Galabru as the chief of the Gaulois. I really like this actor that I came to know after watching the whole series of ?Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez? with Louis de Funès, the great French actor.

Two things to end this review. First, the special effects, in this day and age, could have been a lot better. Second, the movie is lacking the subtlety that the comic books have. Verdict: on the way to the video store, stop at the library and get the comic books too. Compare for yourself.

Out of 100, I gave it 75.

8 / 10

good, clean fun

When I was a little kid, my Dad picked up a copy of The Twelve Tasks of Asterix at the local video store. Oh, happy day! I've been completely enamored with Asterix and his adventures ever since.

The wily little Gaul first appeared in 1959, in a French children's magazine, and gradually his creators ? Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo ?built him up into a national phenomenon. Asterix has his own cartoons, his own theme park, and now his own big-budget movies (a pair of the most expensive French films ever made, in fact). Wildly popular throughout Europe and even parts of Asia, Asterix remains obscure in the United States, which is why this film has seen no official distribution here. Thankfully, Miramax recently purchased the rights to both this movie and its sequel, Asterix: Mission Cleopatra, so they should both be seen in the U.S. eventually.

The concept behind the character is simple. Asterix is a small, cunning warrior who, in conjunction with his strong, dumb friend Obelix, travels the Roman Empire thwarting the plans of Caesar and his imperialist minions. Aiding Asterix in his quest is the druid Getafix, who brews a magical potion that endows its drinker with super-strength.

After seeing disastrous big-screen revivals of Godzilla, The Avengers, and Star Wars, I was reluctant to see this poorly-reviewed film. Sure, it did great box office, earning more than double its $45 million price tag, but so what? Popularity isn't always an indicator of quality.

But hey, I liked it!

The film's design is just gorgeous, with the outrageous settings and costumes from the comic strips recreated in loving detail. The soundtrack is lovely, creating a real "period" feel. The opening segments are a big slow ? the fish fight and the boulder-dropping sequence are pretty silly. But soon after that, the story takes off like a bullet.

The film has an episodic structure, with multiple subplots running at once. This has opened the film up to criticism, but I rather liked seeing a "greatest hits of Asterix" movie. It's all here ? giant battles in the arena, Obelix falling in love with Panacea, Asterix clashing with a charlatan soothsayer, Getafix winning the golden sickle at the annual druid's conference. It's a cut-and-paste combination of several Asterix comics, but it works.

Much of the film's success is owed to the cast. Depardieu was born to play Obelix, and he dives into the role without pretense, playing the oaf with comic flair. Clavier's Asterix has been panned by some but I thought he was witty, and he bears an almost eerie resemblance to the comic book character in some shots. Benigni is the ideal Asterix villain, hamming it up like a lunatic, and Laetitia Casta makes a gorgeous Panacea.

The special effects are delightful. Romans get punched over hill and dale, Asterix pulls hilarious faces when he drinks his potion, and clever visual trickery makes dozens of Roman extras look like hundreds. The sets are spacious and impressive, and the film has wonderfully rich colors (particularly reds, which appear everywhere ? Asterix's pants, the Roman uniforms and tents, the banners in the arena?)

Of course it's just silly rubbish, but it's perfect entertainment for kids and kids-at-heart. No one is killed and there's nothing mean-spirited about it. Big-budget though it is, the film has a European wit and silliness that is lacking in American action films. French critics were afraid that the film would be imitation Hollywood rubbish, infesting the otherwise "pure" French cinema, but I think those fears are unfounded. There's nothing commercial about Asterix, thank goodness.

Citizen Kane it ain't, but I was thoroughly entertained. Ignore the film's mostly bad reviews and give it a try (if you can get a copy, that is!). I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.