‘I got 99 problems, but the Brits ain’t one.’
You can tell a lot about a person if they either read the series of Horrible Histories books Terry Deary and/or if they ever watched the BBC TV adaptation. You can tell they like comedy, they enjoy a bit of history, probably like Monty Python and adore The Princess Bride (including myself here, surprise!) The original team involved in the tv series were the brains behind Bill, the 2015 film about the ‘lost years’ of William Shakespeare. It is very good – as I discuss here.
The reason this film, about the Romans conquering Britain and battling Boudicca, isn’t as good as Bill is simply because the story isn’t fully there. Whilst the jokes are good, often very good indeed, and the talent involved is a talented and immensely recognisable array of faces* – the film runs out of steam two thirds in.
The story is secondary to the jokes, that are as educational as they are engaging – which is very. The film looks to be one of those rare situations where it is fun to watch and looks as it was fun to make.
From the moment Rattus Rattus appears imitating the MGM lion, we know we are in safe hands that have a way with comedy. Craig Roberts in particular is hilarious as a moody and sulky Emperor Nero who has clear mummy (Kim Cattrall) issues. But he’s the B-plot to that involving Celtic tribe-leader-in-the-making Orla (Emilia Jones) and her kidnapping of reluctant Roman Atti (Sebastian Croft). Their bits are fine, but they don’t possess the same level of comedy. Supporting character Boudicca is brilliantly played by Kate Nash, as dazzling here as she is in Netflix’s Glow (series 3 of which arrives August 9th). As with the TV show, there’s a couple of great songs on display; it was a real delight to hear this get a reprise**.
This is a film that is a great way to while away 92 minutes. Funny with enough appeal for both children and their families; comedy that is accessible for all ages.
*Nick Frost, Alexander Armstrong, Warwick Davis, Kevin Bishop, Sanjeev Baskar, Chris Addison, Lee Mack, Marek Larwood, Dustin Demri-Burns, Jamie Demetriou, Rupert Graves, Lucy Montgomery, Sarah Hadland and Samantha Spiro to name but a few.
Horrible Histories: The Movie – Rotten Romans is is UK cinemas from July 26th.