Should we go see "Asterix and Obelix: Middle Kingdom"?

Everyone is talking about it, impossible to miss this French blockbuster, launched four years ago, slowed down by the Covid and, finally, showing in cinemas with the mission of filling them, under penalty of accident industrial

Should we go see "Asterix and Obelix: Middle Kingdom"?

Everyone is talking about it, impossible to miss this French blockbuster, launched four years ago, slowed down by the Covid and, finally, showing in cinemas with the mission of filling them, under penalty of accident industrial. Suffice to say that the pressure is strong on this Asterix and Obelix: the Middle Kingdom directed by Guillaume Canet who must do as well if not better than his elders, Alain Chabat - his assumed reference -, Claude Zidi, the tandem Frédéric Forestier / Thomas Langmann and Laurent Tirard which attracted in all some forty million spectators in France.

Obviously, faced with such an artistic and financial challenge (65 million euros budget), Guillaume Canet, on the edge of vertigo, first secured himself, in addition to the leading role, a large cast that raked wide – his friend Gilles Lellouche , Vincent Cassel, Jonathan Cohen, Marion Cotillard, Pierre Richard, Philippe Katherine, Big Flo and Oli, Angèle, McFly and Carlito, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Matthieu Chedid. Then he mixed it all together, believing that all these names, skilfully drawn from almost all areas of entertainment, would be enough on their own to carry a film which unfortunately suffers from a predictable scenario, served by dialogues written in Automatic pilot.

It's actually not easy to invent a new story without having the original comic book as a support. This one is, as it should be, very simple: it is for our two irreducible Gauls to save the princess of China imprisoned by a felon prince.

Enough to imagine extraordinary adventures, a bit exotic. But instead of embarking on an epic story, overturning the table in a delirious comedy, the film connects sketches where everyone does their number without worrying about the whole. Hence a collage effect in the narrative mechanics which quickly spins in circles and seriously lacks binding. Luckily, some get away with it, notably Vincent Cassel in the skin of a demagogue, nonchalant Julius Caesar, maddened by the hysterical Cleopatra played without conviction by Marion Cotillard (meet Monica Bellucci!). We feel that he has fun and takes the right distance with this often ridiculous character.

For his part, Jonathan Cohen alias Graindemaïs, takes the difficult succession of Numérobis, played by Jamel Debbouze in Asterix and Obelix: mission Cleopatra. He knows his score well and plays on the effective register of his character "Serge le mytho". He is surrounded by Ramzy Bedia, alias Épidemaïs, salesman of Louboutix, who, too, does not need to force his comic temperament. Decked out in blonde wigs, these two Phoenician traders, on the run from China, which they left with the Empress's daughter, Princess Fu Yi (Julie Chen) and her bodyguard Tat Han (Leanna Chea), join the Gaul in a chariot to ask Asterix and Obelix for help. Their mission? Return there to save the Empress and put an end to the coup d'etat initiated by the traitor Deng Tsin Quin (Bun-hay Mean revealed in the Jamel Comedy Club) and his adviser, the deceitful Ri Qui Qui (Manu Payet, excellent)

Everyone is agitated and doing their best to trigger laughter, for a few seconds, like José Garcia, rather funny in Biopix – the scribe fan of César – who does not hesitate to add to the effeminate “Brazilian Gallic” register already widely experienced in its time, during its passages in Nowhere Else. From time to time Pierre Richard (Panoramix) intervenes by chance, while Jérôme Commandeur comes out on top as an opportunistic village chief, constantly snubbed by his wife Bonemine, played by Audrey Lamy. While Philippe Katherine, aka Assurancetourix, plays the lyre and gets beaten up.

As for Guillaume Canet's Asterix, he is not really comfortable in the sweet, crazy, invincible register of the character of Uderzo/Goscinny. He is a borderline vegan Gaul, blue flower and who doubts, while Gilles Lellouche's Obélix tries to erase the henaurme Depardieu. As a result, he doesn't make a ton of it anymore, and doesn't even lick his fingers after gobbling boars. Mischievous and heart of artichoke, he still continues to distribute a few slaps. For the rest, we wonder why these two are forced to bicker nonstop and fall in love at the same time with the Chinese princess and her bodyguard.

Even though we travel a lot, the exteriors seem the same, as do the interior scenes. The sets and costumes have an effect, but the comedy of the situation is on the spot or skates. Whose fault is it ? To an editing that plays frenzy instead of rhythm, to a realization that lacks cohesion and to a lot of uninnovative special effects and to scenes already seen like kung fu fights (Karate Kid, Tiger and Dragon) or the imposed figures of battle scenes.

So what good are the cameos of luxury extras like Big Flo and Oli (in the shadow of Ramzy), Angèle, McFly and Carlito, Zlatan Ibrahimovic (as Antivirus, Caesar's invincible warrior) or Matthieu Chedid? ? They seem to owe their presence only for the purposes dictated by a marketing department, and find themselves playing the parts in a cast with carnival colors.

The big question remains: is a succession of more or less effective gags enough to make a "comedy of the year"? No, it gives honest entertainment. By wanting to do too much, in front of and behind the camera, Guillaume Canet was a little missed. Damage.