- Film & TV
- 07 Aug 19
It’s officially cinema’s silly season, and you won’t get much sillier than this. Deary’s Horrible Histories books – and subsequent TV show - revelled in providing cheerfully irreverent, puerile and trivia-filled interpretations of history. Given the increasingly heavy nature of current politics, a silly, summertime forage into the grubbier annals of history could, in theory, provide a fun family outing. But does it deliver?
The film begins in Ancient Rome, where Craig Roberts (Submarine) is a pitch-perfect highlight as petulant brat Emperor Nero, whose plans for world domination are expressed through deadpan Gen Z slang and temper tantrums. Meanwhile in Britain, warrior queen Boudicca (Kate Nash) is uniting the Celtic tribes in a revolt against the Romans, calling herself Queen Bee and complaining about “haters.” Her fighting spirit inspires young Celt Orla (Emilia Jones), who kidnaps young Roman soldier Atti (Sebastian Croft) in an attempt to prove herself as a respected warrior. The teens strike up a wary alliance as they try survive the upcoming battle.
The film is packed with British comedy stars like Nick Frost, Lee Mack, Warwick Davis, Chris Addison and Rupert Graves, all gamely committing to their bit parts – if you’ve ever wanted to watch Sanjeev Bhaskar make eye contact with a room full of people while urinating into a pot, you’re in luck (and in need of therapy). Their limited screentime exposes the film’s uneasy transition from short sketches to a feature-length narrative, and the songs used as awkward segues between scenes are torturous.
Despite brief nods to Trump and Banksy, there aren’t nearly enough smart jokes for adults to balance the obsession with toilets and bodily fluids. It might distract young kids handily enough, but for your own sanity, just introduce them to Monty Python instead.