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Friday, 1 February, 2002, 17:15 GMT
Asterix embarks on a doomed Mission
Gerard Depardieu and Christian Clavier
Asterix and Obelisk are played by Depardieu and Clavier
By the BBC's Rory Mulholland

Asterix and Obelix's first live action outing on the big screen was a critical disaster.

Their second, Asterix: Mission Cleopatra, takes them to the deserts of Egypt and is only marginally more entertaining.

The Egypt of Cleopatra is under the yoke of the Roman empire. To prove to Julius Caesar that her people are superior to the Romans, the ravishing, hook-nosed queen bets that she can build a sumptuous palace within three months.

Her hapless young architect, Numerobis, realising that only superhuman strength will get the job done on time, seeks the help of certain Gallic villagers from the other end of the Roman empire who happen to possess a certain magic potion.

Caesar is played by the film's director, Alain Chabet
Caesar is refused entry to a nightclub
Asterix: Mission Cleopatra, like the first live action Asterix, has all the ingredients for a blockbuster film - a big budget, big stars and state-of-the-art special effects.

Its theme of cunning Gauls outwitting mighty Rome will be familiar to fans of the comic book cult duo.

Its gags do elicit a few giggles, the Egyptian (Moroccan in reality) setting is stunning, and the dance routine - to a James Brown song - by the magic potion-fuelled palace building workers is a highlight.

The tongue-in-cheek references to contemporary life - email messages, bad mobile phone connections, strikes, being refused entry to a nightclub also provoke a few smiles.

But the film never really takes off. This may be due to the mediocre plot. But it is probably more on account of the mostly pedestrian acting.

Monica Belluci as Cleopatra is like an Italian version of the English actress Liz Hurley. Her charms, on the evidence of this film at least, lie more in her physique than in her theatrical abilities.

The roles of the diminutive Asterix and his larger-than-life sidekick Obelix are no more than adequately filled, as in the first Asterix film, by Christian Clavier and Gerard Depardieu.

The surprise is that the two bickering heroes play second fiddle to the real star of the show, Jamel Debbouze as the architect Numerobis.

His bumbling, ineffectual character gets all the best lines and he delivers them with aplomb. Even if he doesn't get the girl in the end.

Asterix is currently on release in France

Asterix: Mission Cleopatra - hit or miss?



160 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

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Asterix acts up
15 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Asterix punches his way back
14 Mar 01 | Europe
Asterix back in the bookshops
04 Feb 99 | Entertainment
The magic runs out for Asterix
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