Horrible Histories: The Movie – Rotten Romans – Film Review
Director: Dominic Brigstocke
Writers: Caroline Norris, Giles Pilbrow etc.
Stars: Sebastian Croft, Emilia Jones, Nick Frost
If you’re not aware of Horrible History, where have you been exactly? Possibly just watching age appropriate television aimed at grown ups, and that’s a more than adequate excuse. It’s basically a comedy sketch show that makes history more palatable for kids, exploring many of the gory details of lives taken directly from the pages of our history books. Anything that gets kids interested in history is a good thing and many kids really love this show.
This is a new venture by the people at BBC films, along with the many other companies involved in producing this work. It shows how Nero (Craig Roberts) takes the throne in Rome and how his mother Agrippina (Kim Cattrall) manipulates him from behind the scenes. Our hero, Atti (Sebastian Croft), is charged with the offence of selling horse piss as the highly sought after scent of Gladiator’s sweat! For this crime, he is sentenced to a terrible fate, he has to join the army and go to Britain (or stain as Nero calls it, as he was sure it was just a stain on the map)! Once there, Atti meets the brutish Celts, who are the current inhabitants of the island. He is taken captive by one young woman called Orla (Emilia Jones), but their relationship slowly starts to change.
The film is quite different from the TV show, with the budget being substantially bigger, but there are other changes that do not sit quite as well. The most annoy element is the large number of songs! We have bad rapping from any number of sources. It’s obviously seen as something ‘cool’ or that the kids will relate to, but rapping is a substantial skill, and people who just try to do it on the day seem shockingly inadequate! Kate Nash is possibly the worst culprit of this crime. She is a relatively good actor, and her portrayal of Celt leader Boudicca is perfectly adequate, but the dance numbers are cringe worthy.
The film moves from gag to gag, and is reasonably enjoyable, despite the few murdered songs along the way. There is a general idea in the minds of parents that the historic elements will help their children learn by osmosis, but really you would learn just as much by watching any swords and sandals tale that is reasonably factual. What you do learn a lot about is how the ancient Romans went to the toilet! It is a topic you will leave the cinema with a substantial knowledge of. I guess it will appeal to younger members of the audience, who love all things potty related. The movie will not spawn a legion of die-hard fans and will quite reasonably be forgotten in a few year’s time, but it’s a perfectly adequate distraction for a few hours during the summer holidays.