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Asterix :The Secret Of The Magic Potion (2018)

At the height of the Roman Empire, one humble village in Gaul (now France) has resisted conquest. Their secret? Thanks to their resident druid Getafix, the villagers are gifted with a magic potion which gives them temporary super-strength. With the powers of the potion on their side, Asterix, Obelix and the other villagers are able to hold their own against the might of the Roman Empire, much to Julius Ceasar's dismay.

This simple set up, devised by author Rene Goscinny and illustrator Albert Underzo in 1959 launched a hugely successful comic series, consisting of 37 books and adapted into 14 films, both animated and live-action. Asterix: The Secret of The Magic Potion is the second CG animated film in the series, following on from 2014's Mansion Of The Gods.

Secret Of The Magic Potion is the tenth animated film in the series overall, and only the second not based on existing comic book material. The film is written and directed by Alexandre Astier and co-directed by Louis Clichy.

When he breaks his leg while gathering ingredients the ageing Getafix decides it's time to find and train a successor.  And so Asterix, Obelix, and Dogmatix set off on a quest across Gaul to find a young druid worthy enough to be taught the secret recipe.  Meanwhile, the sinister druid Demonix has plans to steal the recipe for himself.

Mansion of The Gods was the first time that an animated Asterix movie made the leap to three dimensions. Far from losing the charm of the earlier films, the change to CG revitalised the series. The same is true here- Secret Of The Magic Potion is visually sublime.

The animation and design captures the art of the original graphic novels (or albums, as they are known in France) with amazing accuracy. It looks virtually identical to Underzo's original art rendered in 3D. It's brought to life by people who clearly have a love for the original material. The animation- particularly in the slapstick combat sequences- has an irresistible cartoony charm to it. Frankly, it's hard to imagine how anyone could have done a better job.

With the animation so gorgeously rendered, and so true to the spirit of the original, it's a shame that the film is less successful in other areas. While the visual humour is strong, unfortunately, the script fails to live up to such high standards. It may well be that much of this could be down to the translation, which feels like it could have done with a punch-up (no pun intended). The English language dub feels pretty lacklustre overall. It's not actually bad, it just doesn't really stand out in any way.

Even if some of the film's humour is lost in translation, it does have some other issues too. Without the advantage of strong source material to fall back on, the plot feels a little on the weak side. Although the set up has potential, it never really goes anywhere particularly interesting with it. The villainous Demonix has some great design work, and cuts quite the figure when wearing a skull mask. But overall he never really feels like anything other than a standard issue antagonist and it all comes to head in a climax that feels pretty out of place in an Asterix movie. Despite a relatively modest running time, it does begin to feel a bit overstretched by the end, too.

It also imports some of the more problematic content from the source material. Such as very lacking female characters (who come in two models- bombshell or battle-axe) and one very racially insensitive (OK, let's call them what they are- racist) character design. At least in the case of the former, they make some efforts to improve this, giving them more screen time than normal, and introducing a plucky young girl to the cast, and the latter is a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo.  Still, while in the original these can be waved away by the fact they came from a different era, that doesn't really fly in a movie made last year.

Although it's far from perfect, the film's issues likely won't bother the younger members of the audience, who are likely to be drawn in by the bold and bright animation and sense of fun. Fans of the franchise are also likely to be forgiving of the flaws when it succeeds in capturing so much of the comic's appeal.

More than 50 years after they first hit the screen, the plucky Gauls are still putting up a fight- and proving they've still got what it takes to entertain.

FORMAT: Cinema/Streaming [Sky/NowTV]  FROM: Altitude Films [UK] RATING: PG RUNNING TIME: 1hr 27m 

IN A NUTSHELL:  A Gorgeously animated concoction featuring beloved characters, but still missing a few ingredients to make it truly magic.