Based on the hit books by Terry Deary, Horrible Histories first hit TV screens in 2009. The shows unique format mixing historical fact and fiction with humour, battles and songs. Providing children and adults alike with a delightful mix of fun and learning. Its anarchic recipe made the TV show and instant success for Children’s BBC. Therefore, after eight seasons of the show, it is amazing it has taken this long for Horrible Histories to reach the big screen. But with Horrible Histories the Movie: Rotten Romans, the show makes a charming transition to film. Honouring and celebrating its TV origins, while also embracing the family film market. Creating a fun and engaging summer movie that ticks all the right boxes.
Horrible Histories: Rotten Romans is proudly British film in its humour, construct and delivery. Its style echoing classic British comedies ranging from the Carry On Cleo to the early Ealing films and Monty Python. All mixed with a core foundation of accessible historical learning.
Opening with a wonderful tongue in cheek segment exploring the length of the titles. We are immediately thrown into the treacherous murder of Claudius (Derek Jacobi). His moody and insolent son Nero (Craig Roberts) and scheming wife Agrippina (Kim Cattrall) desperate to take the imperial throne. And after a false start with poisoned mushrooms the mother and son finally succeed with the help of a poison feather.
With Nero now on the throne, and his mother firmly pulling the strings behind his back. We are introduced to Atti (Sebastian Croft) a teen roman who inadvertently ends up upsetting Nero. His punishment for the embarrassment that ensues being his banishment to what Nero calls the ‘Stain’ (aka Britain).
On banishment Atti soon meets a Celt named Orla (Emilia Jones) Her tribe led by her father (Nick Frost) who opts for peace over conflict at every opportunity. However, there’s a new Celt warrior in town named Boudicca (Kate Nash). Her popularity growing day by day as she takes down the Roman soldiers in her path. And as Boudicca’s rebellion grows Atti and Orla friendship also grows as they share Roman and Celt knowledge to protect those they love.
From the outset Horrible Histories celebrates its TV roots, while also embracing its first big screen outing. Creating a film that feels fresh and different throughout, while engaging young and old alike. Its script penned by Jessica Swale and Giles Pilbrow sings with intelligence, comedy and wit. Both writers pulling off a tough job, in translating a TV sketch show into feature length story. While Director Dominic Brigstocke keeps proceedings moving in fast, engaging and energetic manner.
Performances are equally fun, light and energetic. With Sebastian Croft, Craig Roberts and Emilia Jones all leading the films narrative with ease. While the films stunning ensemble cast add gravitas to the proceedings. This is a cast united in having fun with their characters. Bouncing off one another throughout the film with moments of pure comedic gold.
Horrible Histories is delicious mix of historical learning, humour and fun. A bright and effervescent film that appeals to a cross section of ages, while celebrating it TV foundations. This is a film proud of its uniquely British humour and style. Encouraging both young and old to learn more about the formation of our islands. At a time where division still threatens our sense of who we are and where we want to be as a country.
Director: Dominic Brigstocke