Not rated, but mainly because this is barely considered a movie. An hour five? That's not much of a film. I suppose the first Asterix movie is pretty harmless. There's a lot of cartoon punchy violence. I suppose there might be some stereotypes played up, but even that is pretty tame. Really, this movie should be G. For all I know, some releases might even have it as G-rated. But since it is technically not rated, I have to give it the blue text.
DIRECTOR: Ray Goosens
It's so hard to take that specific thing from your childhood and thrust it upon your children. I did the same thing with Not Quite Human, but apparently I never learn my lesson. My dad was obsessed with Asterix comics. Because he was upsettingly smarter than I will ever be, he read them in the original French. I was always confused by the fact that he never liked the American puns that the characters from Asterix had because they apparently worked better in French. Regardless, Asterix and Obelix were characters I grew up with and hadn't revisited in a really long time.
Part of the appeal of revisiting this movie came from the fact that we're homeschooling. Yup, we're one of the folks who thought it was too dangerous to send our kids back to school in the midst of a plague, so we thought we would spice up our curriculum with some stuff that they might not get in a traditional school setting. As part of that, we said that we would study different cultures every month and we started with France. My contribution was to French popular culture, and voila! Here's what you get. But the thing about Asterix the Gaul is that it is really dated. How did I not notice how dated this movie was? The animation is super-duper basic. I mean, we're talking about even more simple than a classic episode of Scooby-Doo: Where are You? While I have to applaud that my kids lasted a few minutes into the episode, they clearly were not entertained. I think I'm quickly becoming the bummer pick for family movie night.
It's really interesting to think that we don't really know much about Asterix the Gaul over here. I have a Sega Genesis game of it that is borderline unplayable and a handful of translated comics in my collection, but that's about it. Part of it is that it is goofy and silly, but it also has this really weird mythology. I couldn't help but make the connection to The Flintstones in terms of visual craftiness. But The Flintstones and Asterix may be stressing the differences in both cultures. I'm not saying that it takes a genius to really piece together the basic elements of an Asterix cartoon. But both cartoons look at history in very different lights. The Flintstones don't really care about the history of its setting. Cavemen hang out with talking dinosaurs. The entire thing plays up on the novelty joke that it rode through our cultural zeitgeist. But Asterix assumes a lot. The beginning of these stories gives the basic mythology of Asterix and his tribe of Gauls. It requires a basic understanding of who the Romans were and how invasions worked. It needed you to understand who Julius Caesar was and his global politics. It never really asks for an in-depth understanding of world history, but it definitely asked for basic literacy.
I suppose, in that way, Asterix the Gaul has more in common with Mr. Peabody and Sherman. All of these cartoons seemed to be made on the cheap, as opposed to the Disney model of having gorgeous fluid animation. But Asterix seems to have at least a basic mythology to follow. I adore that there are character flaws and arcs that seem to happen. The character I always rooted for was Obelix. While as a short guy who got bullied as a kid, you'd think that I would warm up to Asterix, who was able to topple any bully with a single punch. But Obelix was always this sympathetic dude to me. He was this gentle giant who loved roast boar and simply wanted some magic potion. He was always dancing around this odd morality of wanting what everyone else had. Basically, Obelix is the metaphor of sneaking a cigarette when he really needs to quit. Because he fell into the cauldron of magic potion, he isn't allowed anymore. We're not really sure what would happen to him, despite that he sneaks droplets from time to time. But he was the character I always liked.
Because this is a children's cartoon, the good guys and bad guys are always clearly delineated. The Gauls were good. The Romans were bad. Except for Caesar. Caesar was outside of the petty morality of these cartoons and comics. He was something grandiose and large. Something that made you excited to see when he was going to show up because he was real. But it's kind of nice having such clear bad guys, especially from the French perspective. If the Gauls were pure French, the Romans were outsiders trying to take land simply for the glory of Rome. They had no good reason to continue attacking this small village, outside of the fact that it was the last unconquered land. But it made them ever so sneaky. I also adored that the Romans were always kind of double crossing each other. The head Roman (believe it or not, the imDb page is kind of lacking on Asterix the Gaul) spends the majority of the film trying to be the next Caesar. His second-in-command, the same deal. It makes the Romans so hilariously villainous that it actually encourages the scheme that Asterix and Getafix have for the Romans.
Because it really does go too far. There's a part in Hamlet where Hamlet's revenge makes him the bad guy. If Asterix the Gaul wasn't an absolutely absurd French cartoon, you do have to wonder at Asterix's intentions. Honestly, Asterix is supposed to have a downfall if it followed a traditional narrative. The inciting incident is the capture of Getafix. Asterix has to make a plan to help Getafix escape. He actually solves that problem remarkably quickly. Acting confidently into the Roman camp makes everyone think that they are going to get walloped. But because he likes to play games with the Romans, the rest of the film is just tempting fate. There should be a moment where Asterix worries about actually pulling off the plan. It's the same thing with Ocean's Eleven. The problem itself is easy to solve. It's the self-gratification that should get them in trouble.
But because the Romans are such bullies, it becomes entertaining. When they all pick on the tiniest Roman, there's this degree of sympathy. Don't get me wrong. That tiny Roman also sucks. He's super excited to narc on all of the Gauls, who were super friendly when it came to taking care of a lost little Gaul. But the story does this fun gig of making all of the revenge schemes so entertaining because they're kind of jerks.
I don't know if I can sell future films in the Asterix line to my kids. But as bad as the animation was, I really enjoyed the movie as a whole. It's very dated. Maybe it only applies to my childhood. But I got a kick out of it and felt like the weird kid all over again, so I guess it won?
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.