Horrible Histories: The Movie – Rotten Romans
Adapted from Terry Deary’s beloved books, Horrible Histories became a beloved television series, which has now become a pretty good movie.
Subtitled Rotten Romans, this big-screen spin-off revolves around the Battle of Watling Street between Emperor Nero (Craig Roberts) and British rebel queen Boudicca (Kate Nash), as seen through the eyes of awkward Roman teen Atti (Sebastian Croft) and Orla (Emilia Jones), a plucky Celtic warrior of a similar age. On opposite sides of the battle, the two adolescents find themselves entangled in a star-crossed attachment to one another as the war between indigenous British tribes and the Roman Empire rages on.
It definitely feels like the feature was made for TV, which can be particularly attributed to Dominic Brigstocke rigidly sticking to the aesthetic of the series in lieu of the inventive possibilities of a BBC budget. Obviously, the filmmaker wouldn’t want to drift too far away from the roots of his source material, but the metatextual delights offered in this movie certainly hint at a greater promise.
All wishing aside, the actual thing in the film that hamstrings its potential is the relationship between Orla and Atti – possibly the least entertaining characters in the ensemble – which becomes directly responsible for an underwhelming ending that betrays the historical literacy that otherwise exists throughout the narrative.
However, kids may not be so privy to the real history beforehand, so the responsibility for Rotten Romans is to at least be entertaining. In this regard, it’s a success. Nero and Boudicca are great fun to watch, played by the best casting choices of Craig Roberts and Kate Nash. The latter is especially well utilised as Boudicca’s journey along the ancient trackway of Watling Street is framed like a musical tour, so the artist gets to perform some punchy songs to recount the legend of her character.
The movie has some laugh-out-loud moments for both kids and adults: simple slapstick for the young’uns (fart jokes and funny faces) and sly historical jokes for the grownups (“I got 99 problems but a britch ain’t one”). Maintaining the ethos of Terry Deary’s work, this is an easy-to-follow, delightfully self-reflexive adaptation of real history.
Considering the film is essentially a supersized TV episode, it’s not totally regrettable to miss in the cinema, but it’s better to see it on the big screen because nothing beats communal enjoyment. If Horrible Histories disappears by the time you make your mind up though… well, you snooze-icus, you lose-icus.
Horrible Histories: The Movie – Rotten Romans is released nationwide on 26th July 2019.
Watch the trailer for Horrible Histories: The Movie – Rotten Romans here: