Anyone who studied French, or has French family, or a French connection (perhaps even owners of The French Connection) will have some recollection of the absolutely amazing comic series Astérix, the story of a plucky little village of Gauls who through ingenuity and magic, are able to keep the Roman Empire at bay. There have been 36 books, with the series first appearing in the French magazine Pilote in 1959, written by René Goscinny (until his death in 1977) and illustrated by Albert Uderzo until 2009 (who took over writing after Goscinny's death), when he sold the rights to the series to publishing company Hachette. Astérix is an extremely popular series, particularly in Europe, and has spawned 13 films (including 9 animated and 4 live action). The latest film, Mansion of the Gods from just last year is perhaps the best film interpretation of the comics ever made, capturing not only the pacing and style of Astérix, but also the humour.
Written and directed by Louis Clichy and Alexandre Astier, Astérix and Obelix: The Mansion of the Gods is based off of the 17th volume of the comic series, wherein Cæser decides that, in order to finally take over Astérix's village, he will commission gigantic Roman apartment buildings (I mean, a Roman Patrician Colony...*cough*) designed by the great architect Squaronthehypotenus, and culturally assimilate the Gauls in order to finally conquer their village. After a brief bit of magical resistance, Squaronthehypotenus threatens to work the slaves (the (almost) luckless pirates from previous adventures) to death in order to clear the forest, which Astérix takes literally and he sneaks some of the Gauls' magic potion to them. The slaves however, in a commentary or European labour unions, use their collective newfound strength to bargain for better terms and the colony is soon built and thriving. The Gauls of the village (other than Astérix and Obelix) are soon drawn to the profits to be had in the Mansion of the Gods, leaving the village ripe for the razing, leaving only the two of them to try and stop the Roman Legions from destroying their home.
Check out this trailer below:
The beautiful thing about every Astérix story is that you do not have to know anything about them at all in order to enjoy them; each story works so well on it's own that one does not have to worry about being unfamiliar with the characters in order to enjoy this film, as long as you are willing to read the subtitles (although I am sure that there is an English dubbed version, if you really need one...). You will get to know Astérix and Obelix quickly, their friendship, their village, and the magic of the Gauls quickly, but without a buttload of obvious exposition slowing a good story down.
For longtime fans, all of your favourite characters are there, Astérix, Obelix, Dogmatix, Getafix, Cacofanix, etc., etc. and they are done to perfection. This is, without question, the most faithful adaptation of an Astérix story to film. Period.
Mansion of the Gods is also the first 3D animated Astérix film to date, and it is not only extremely well done, they have used the 3D to really create a fully animated (for lack of a better term) cast of characters that you know and love. Not once did I find the transition from hand-drawn to 3D distracting, as can sometimes be the case when one gets used to the source material being done in a certain style--this is a very strongly animated, not unlike a Dreamworks Animated film.
This is one of the best animated films of this decade; it is great for kids (with a comfortable 'G' rating), but it is also maintains Astérix as a series that is as wonderful for adults, as much of the series' subtle humour is nailed in this film, from the regular puns, to the tounge-in-cheek satire of European society and culture.
It is available right now on (Canadian) Netflix, so I do not really know what you are waiting for: see Astérix and Obelix: The Mansion of the Gods.