Film Review: Horrible Histories: The Film. Rotten Romans

Frances Winston thinks you could do worse than bringing the little ones to this version of Roman history!

Directed by: Dominic Brigstocke Starring: Sebastian Croft, Emilia Jones, Nick Frost, Craig Roberts, Kim Cattrall, Kate Nash, Rupert Graves, Alex Macqueen, Derek Jacobi

This may be based on a children’s book series, but it has a cast the calibre of any small-screen historical drama. Impressively even Derek Jacobi appears here as Caudius, in a throwback to his role in the classic TV series, I, Claudius!

However, this is a million miles from that. If you’re not familiar with the Horrible Histories series, they put a humorous spin on historical events, to entertain and engage their young readers. It’s also been adapted into a TV show, and obviously this works on the same premise.

Based on the fourth book in the series, it tells the story of Atti (Croft) a bookish teenager who, in his attempts to raise money to buy a new pair of sandals, upsets the petulant Emperor Nero, and is banished to fight with the Roman Army in Britain. However, his military ineptitude leads to him being captured by a wannabe Celtic warrior, Orla (Jones) and the pair find themselves inadvertently caught up in Boudicca’s (Nash) rebellion against the Romans.

Obviously I’m not the target audience for this, but I found it to be really good fun. The history is accurate (albeit simplified hugely) and the children really seemed to enjoy it. It has all the ingredients to keep them entertained – it’s colourful and fast moving, with catchy songs, and makes references that they will understand.

It doesn’t have any airs and graces about it, and well-known actors like Graves, Frost and Cattrell are more than willing to ham it up. It’s almost like historical panto. All the cast seem to be having great fun in their roles. Given that there wasn’t a massive budget, the sets and costumes are impressive, and, like much children’s theatre (which in fact spawned the original idea for the books), this is a good example of what can be achieved when creative people have to think outside the box.

There is some on-screen captioning, which may be a bit too complex for younger children, but the screening I attended had kids as young as 2-3 there, and they were dancing around enjoying it. I wouldn’t let the age profile put you off taking younger LOs to see it.

If you want to keep the rug-rats occupied, while having a bit of a giggle yourself (and spend a couple of hours out of the current stifling heat in an air conditioned cinema) then this should do the job. You might also learn something from it. If they taught history like this in schools, no one would ever fail!

In Cinemas Now!

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