A stalwart of many international childhoods, the tales of Astérix and his frankly lardy-arsed mucker Obélix continue to beguile after some 40 years in the comic strip nexus. Helped and hindered by magic and heroic potions and evil Romans, the charm of the pint-sized fella is seeing the little man overcome often insurmountable odds. Adopting a tone that goes some way to replicating the comic's distinctive look, Claude Zidi's live action version trades in suitably lively slapstick but without perhaps ever doing the cool Gaul total justice.
The film certainly has the budget and the plot has enough depth to lift it from the two-dimensional. Astérix (Clavier), Obélix (Depardieu) and, of course, Dogmatix must hold out against the might of the Roman Empire, restore the fallen Caesar to power and all-the-while resolve some increasing internal divisions.
In creating a new, more multi-layered storyline, writer/director Zidi manages to address any concerns over durability and the cast do well in rounding out their creations: Depardieu is in hearty form, Benigni brings his trademark to le party, whilst the standout is Clavier, who cuts an endearing figure behind his huge 'tache.
Nevertheless, events do begin to slowly fall apart - initially with a couple of uninspiring effects, and then in a steady loss of zest in terms of humour, action and dialogue. As a result, the overall effect is a slightly anaemic imitation of one of comic books' more full-blooded heroes.