Atti (Sebastian Croft) has a problem. Drafted to the UK for a crime he absolutely committed (But which was, in fariness, very funny) he’s bested by Orla (Emilia Jones). Orla, it turns out, has her own set of problems. She’s the daughter of Arghus (Nick Frost),a Celtic chieftain who insists on keeping her off the front lines and she sees Atti as proof that she’s ready. Atti sees her as the perfect embodiment of every terrible thing about the UK. But war is coming, plus a kleptomaniac grandmother and Atti and Orla will have to work together to survive…
It turns out I have a tremendous weakness for Latin jokes. So, when, in an early scene, a Gladiator trainer tells his guys he expects ‘CX Percent’ I started laughing. By the time Nero (An almost impossibly droll Craig Roberts) yells ‘High V!’ and high fives someone I was in bits. This film is very, very much my speed. No joke is left behind, no pun left undeployed. Fun AND educational do not so much dance hand in hand as run screaming ‘ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!’ to the center of the screen and, frequently, you are
A massive part of that is Jessica Swale, GIles Pilbrow and Caroline Norris’ script which continues the Horrible Histories‘ tradition of baking in some magnificently wry moments for viewers of all ages. Like spiritual stablemate, Bill, it’s literate, knowing and at the same time endlessly enthusiastic. it also takes the brave and necessary step of not having the two young leads fall in love. They get a (Magnificently overblown, while one is tied to a post) duet sure but they’re mates, nothing more and that’s vital. Educating teenagers, young boys especially that platonic friendships with women are not just possible but AWESOME is arguably the most important lesson a movie like this could deliver.
Also it recasts Boudicca as a rock star and has Kate Nash play her so you know you’re in for a good time. The GLOW star clearly relishes her role too and there’s some smart stuff here about star worship and fandom. Better still, there’s a refreshing lack of pulled punches. Boudicca’s defeat is based in arrogance and is bloody and total. Boudicca’s own fate is delightfully ambiguous and Atti’s role in the whole thing is left cleverly unresolved. The movie, for all it’s broad humor (Including the best timed Spartacus joke you’ll see this decade) has interesting things to say about who writes history and the often unintended consequences of cultural clashes. It’s often violent, it’s often unpleasant but it’s also part of the foundation of the country and the movie looks at that with refreshingly clear eyes/
Rounded out with some great cameos, including Lee Mack as a soldier on his last tour and Rupert Graves as a just fabulously rock and roll Paulinus, Horrible Histories: Rotten Romans is a treat. Some of the songs could, perhaps, have been beefed up but that’s small potatoes when the whole thing is this much fun.
Plus that Spartacus joke really is top notch.
Horrible Histories: Rotten Romans is in cinemas now. The fantastic Bill, made by another aspect of the same core team is available to buy now and is SO damn good.