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Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra

Like its predecessor, Asterix & Obelix Take on Caesar, this second live-action outing for Goscinny and Uderzo’s indomitable comic-strip Gauls was a huge hit on mainland Europe but made little impact in the U.K. and is therefore not scheduled for a cinema release in this country. It’s a shame, since this new adventure is more spectacular and witty than the first instalment and its lavish production values certainly benefit from a big-screen presentation. This time out Claude Zidi is replaced as director by Alain Chabat, who also finds time to play Caesar. The year is 52BC, and the beautiful Cleopatra (Monica Bellucci) bets Caesar that she can build a fabulous palace in just three months. If she wins, he will make a public admission that the Egyptian people, not the Romans, are the greatest. The hapless architect charged with completing the seemingly impossible task enlists the help of Gaul wizard Getafix (Claude Rich), who is in turn assisted by sidekicks Asterix (Christian Clavier) and Obelix (Gerard Depardieu).
The narrative is of course nothing more than an excuse for the filmmakers to engage in typical Asterix & Obelix wackinessopuns galore, manic action and cheesy yet complex special effects. Chabat has largely succeeded in broadening the formula’s appeal by incorporating a wealth of movie references, including a zany musical dance number, a cutaway documentary about lobsters, and a Crouching Tiger-style battle sequence. Happily, the English subtitles do a good job of retaining the linguistic humour that was always key to the appeal of the Asterix books.

France-Germany, 2002. English subtitles. Colour. Anamorphic. Dolby/dts digital stereo. 107 mins.

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