Terry Deary’s terrific non-fiction Horrible Histories books for kids are packed with gross, ghoulish and funny historical facts and have been successfully translated into an hilarious TV skit series featuring jokes, musical numbers and sketches.
It makes sense that a movie would be the next way to adapt the bestsellers but changing the format – replacing sketches with a single, rather flimsy story that features two made-up characters against the historical backdrop of the Roman invasion of Britain – doesn’t work as well, and is likely only to appeal to the most ardent young HH fans (and they will be disappointed that favourite character Rattus Rattus is demoted to only appear over the beginning and end credits).
After Roman teen Atti (Croft) does something daft with horse pee that leads to it being applied to Emperor Nero’s (Roberts) face, he is forced to join the Roman army and is sent to Britain as punishment. There, he meets young Celt Orla (Jones), who has dreams of being a warrior like Boudicca (Nash), a rock chick leader who wants to crush the invaders, led by Roman Paulinus (Graves, who at one point – we kid you not – does a rap).
While the film features real historical figures like Nero, Boudicca and Nero’s scheming mother Agrippina (Cattrall), one of the problems here is that the action is focused on the two fictional teens, neither of whom are very interesting.
A bigger problem is the lack of the humour the TV series was well known for – the only giggles here are provided by Lee Mack as a Roman officer dreaming of home, and a daft ‘Farticus’ joke as everything else falls very flat – while the dreadful and awkward musical numbers are unfunny, feel out of place and are essentially padding to get this forgettable movie up to a 90 minute running time.
Is Horrible Histories: The Movie – Rotten Romans suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
This is aimed at young children, so there are no scary moments and the humour is mild (though a lot of it is toilet humour).
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