The adventures of René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo’s potion-supping Gaul creation Asterix and his friends are well loved, since their debut on the pages of Pilote magazine in 1959, all the way up until this new animated feature based on the enduring madcap French creation. In the 60 year history of the series, there have been a plethora of internationally made motion pictures based on the stories and characters, including 4 live-action outings starring Gérard Depardieu and 10 animated films. This latest one, The Secret of the Magic Potion, being released both in cinemas and on Sky Cinema, is hardly the standard barer for all Asterix films but is a fun family flick all the same.
The film centres more on druid Getafix (John Innes), who is faced with finding a replacement after age may be catching up with him. Accompanying him on this important quest are Asterix (Ken Kramer) and Obelix (C. Ernst Harth), but who can they all trust with the secret to this magic potion (a brew that gives his village the strength to repel Roman invasion)? And to make matters worse, news of Getafix’s possible retirement reaches old adversary Demonix (Mike Shepherd), who has wicked designs on the potion himself.
Long standing fans of the source material may be split on the approaches this film takes at times, in particular its modernised – albeit punchy – soundtrack but this is a warm addition to the Asterix lineage. The story is pretty standard adventuring fare, with some of the usual developments of fantasy family offerings of this ilk but thanks to some eccentric edges (potion-fuelled chickens anyone?) and some energetic set pieces, it offers a bit of inoffensively bonkers fun for the young ‘uns and does tip its winged helmet to the source material on multiple occasions.
The animation itself is a triumph, with a very colourful palette meeting some vintage looking effects. The look of this film captures the right vibe and it is always engaging to the eye. Especially some backstory hand-drawn pencil sketched sequences that work an absolute treat. It is all a jumble of old and new really, but it works more often than not, particularly some of the contemporary humour updates and a nice arc for young character Pectin (Fleur Delahunty). Ok so some gags may go over kids heads and not be all that funny to start with but over the concise duration, the movie keeps the content coming and keeps you watching as it runs enthusiastically forward.
The voice work is of good standard and while Asterix and Obelix actually feel a tad relegated to the back and some of the supporting cast don’t get much time to shine, the film’s villain Demonix is delightfully old school, with Mike Shepherd’s performance stealing the show completely and capturing the hand wringing caddishness of a Vincent Price and the fantastical wickedness of an Eleanor Audley.
Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion is an enjoyable outing for the iconic French creation. Charming stuff for the kids and families, as well as some fans.