Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The Egyptian queen Cleopatra (Monica Bellucci) bets against the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar (Alain Chabat) that her people are still great, even if the times of the Pharaohs has long passed. She vows (against all logic) to build a new palace for Caesar within three months. Since all her architects are either busy otherwise or too conservative in style, this ambivalent honor falls to an architect named Edifis (Jamel Debbouze).
Edifis is to build the palace and be covered in gold or, if not, his fate is to be eaten by crocodiles. Edifis calls upon an old friend to help him out: the fabulous Druid Getafix (Claude Rich) from Gaul, who brews a fantastic potion that gives the drinker supernatural strength. In order to help and protect the old Druid, Asterix (Christian Clavier) and Obelix (Gérard Depardieu) accompany him on his journey to Egypt. Asterix falls in love with an Egyptian woman named Guimieukis (Noémie Lenoir).
Edifis's rival architect Artifis (Gérard Darmon) tries to incite a rebellion among Edifis's workers. Getafix brews some potion and construction resumes. When Julius Caesar gets wind of the project succeeding, he has the building site attacked by his troops in order to win the bet and not lose face. But just like the local pirates, he hasn't counted on Asterix and Obelix.
The movie relies on layers of cultural jokes, many of them from the original graphic novels by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo; more were added by the screenwriters, including many references to current popular culture: Caesar's military commander, Caius Céplus, is named for the abbreviation of production company Canal+ (and is spelt "Caius C+" in the English subtitles), and parodies Darth Vader. Some jokes require a knowledge of French society, habits, etc. while others make use of the historical setting for humorous effect: Cleopatra asks her court painter (played by Claude Berri, the film's producer and a renowned contemporary art collector) to paint her "not in profile, for once" (taking a Mona Lisa pose) and he demurs, saying he's not into "modern art."
Miramax Films re-edited the film, cutting approximately 21 minutes and dubbing the movie into English using an American cast. The English script added many new jokes for the American audience, including more references to modern popular culture (Edifis continually calls Getafix a "droid", for example ; this pun was already hinted in the french version though, the actor playing Edifis being of north-african ascendance pushing on his distinctive accent to create a subtle confusion between "droid" and "druid"), and some changes in characterisation, most notably Obelix who appears far less stupid than usual. The dubbed dialogue uses some of the original English names, but the rest are either reused from the American English translation of the original album, or newly invented names. This is most notable among minor characters; the pirate crew, for example, are referred to by the names of famous rock and roll musicians (including John, Paul, George and Ringo) just before a cry of "let's rock and roll!"
The English language subtitles for other markets are a straight translation of the French dialogue, with only the names changed to match the original English translation of the album. The version released on DVD in the Australia by Madman Entertainment contains two discs, one the original French version (with multiple language subtitles) and the other the Miramax edit.