Horrible Histories: The Movie – Rotten Romans brings the series to the big screen (for the second time, following 2015’s Shakespeare comedy, Bill), and begins with Claudius (portrayed – as with the 1976 TV series – by Derek Jacobi) being very unwell due to poison, but a quick vomit joke makes him feel a lot better, much to the annoyance of his wife, Agrippina (Kim Cattrall)…
- Agrippina: “Doctor, come quickly, it’s my husband”
Doctor: “What’s the matter?”
Agrippina: “He’s NOT dying(!)”
After the inevitable, Emperor Nero (Craig Roberts – Submarine) takes over, and a situation over an unwise present leads to Atti (Sebastian Croft) being given a “fate worse than death” – which is to being extradited to Britain, the place Nero thought was just a stain on the map. There, Atti will have to defeat Boudicca’s (Kate Nash) army, but on her side (and in Atti’s affections) is the feisty sword-wielding Orla (Emilia Jones – brilliant in both Brimstone, and Two For Joy).
There’s a good few giggles in this, as well as daft modern colloquialisms such as “Team work makes the dream work” and “I’m on top of this“, plus announcements over the Roman tannoy at the gladiatorial arena for getting snacks from the kiosk (including roasted dormouse) and a chariot with the registration CXB is blocking the gates.
However, it’s far from a brilliant movie, because it really does drag at times, but it passes 90 minutes without too much complaint, anad will entertain its intended audience.
Before watching this Horrible Histories movie, I first noticed the extras included a “Sing-a-long” version, but there’s only one song in the first hour and it’s Boudicca’s chant, although as she’s portrayed by singer Kate Nash, I’d have loved it if she’d thrown Foundations in there, too. Then again, she’d have had to change a few words in the lyrics to make them PG-friendly. That said, there’s zero swearing in this, and it’s clearly only a PG because of some moderately gory fighting moments,
There’s more tunes in the last 30 minutes, though, with a duet from Atti and Orla, as well as a couple more.
Oh, and Nick Frost is still stealing a living, this time as Orla’s father. Frost is only ever any good when he’s working with both Simon Pegg AND Edgar Wright, such as with Spaced and the Cornetto Trilogy.
In addition, Horrible Histories regular Rattus Rattus (John Eccleston) appears over the closing credits, telling you what was true and 100% “accu-rat”, whilst coming into the audience to (offscreen) scoop up all the popcorn left on the floor and then (onscreen) eating it, before introducing the Atti & Orla song being played again, whilst dancing to it. Sadly, this great moment will have been missed by a lot of buffoons who leave the cinema while the credits are on, even though they can see something is happening.
Finally, with a widescreen ratio of 2.00:1, and being part-financed by Amazon, it’s clearly a more ‘made for TV’-type movie, since that’s the ratio favoured by a lot of TV shows these days. As such, when shown on a lot of movie screens, if the screen is one that’s the width for 2.35:1 movies, then this will sit within the 1.85:1 window and have black bars at the top and bottom, so will, effectively, be windowboxed. I wish filmmakers would consider that when it’s going to be shown in cinemas. A lot of people won’t necessarily notice (and the cinemas seem unable to partially zoom in to eradicate this), but when I’ve seen it happen, it’s damn annoying.
For a new movie, you’d expect a top-notch picture and that’s what you get, while the superb score has a Tangerine Dream feel to it.
The extras are worth a look, but there isn’t too much that you’ll watch more than once:
- Sing-a-long version: For the few songs there are, the subtitles are changed to ones where the words are highlighted one by one in yellow.
- Beastly Behind The Scenes (25:50): Rattus Rattus interviews all the key cast members – such as Emilia Jones, Nick Frost, Kate Nash and Derek Jacobi, plus some outtakes.
- The Rome Song (1:30): Rather brief… and I don’t think this was in the film, or was it?
- Silly Stunts (3:58): More interview clips with various cast & crew, plus brief stunt bits, such as Atti and Orla falling out of a tree.
Running time: 93 minutes
Distributor: Altitude Films
Released: November 25th 2019
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS 5.1 HD-MA
Subtitles: English SDH
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Dominic Brigstocke
Producers: Will Clarke, Caroline Norris
Screenplay: Caroline Norris, Giles Pilbrow, Kevin Cecil, Andy Riley, Dave Cohen, Jessica Swale
Music: Iain Farrington, Matt Katz, Richard Webb
Atti: Sebastian Croft
Orla: Emilia Jones
Arghus: Nick Frost
Emperor Nero: Craig Roberts
Boudicca: Kate Nash
Governor General Paulinus: Rupert Graves
Sycophantus: Alex Macqueen
Decimus: Lee Mack
Gladiator Trainer: Warwick Davis
Mr. Felix: Sanjeev Bhaskar
Catus Decianus: Alexander Armstrong
Colin (Reporter): Chris Addison
Claudius: Derek Jacobi
Agrippina: Kim Cattrall
Brenda: Joanna Bacon
Soothsayer: Richard David-Caine
Traveller: Dominique Moore
Doctor: Keir Charles
Julia (Atti’s Mum): Katherine Jakeways
Antonius (Atti’s Dad): Tony Gardner
Flavia: Anna Crilly
Celcius: Jordan Scowen
Sandal Seller: Lawry Lewin
Sweat Seller: Jason Forbes
Severus: Tobi Bamtefa
British Legate: Tim Downie
German Legate: Kevin Bishop
Roman Attendant: Martin Brown
Gaulish Legate: Terry Deary
Egyptian Legate: Paul Bazely
Mrs. Felix: Samantha Spiro
Dougal: Dave Lamb
Cedric: Dustin Demri-Burns
Irene the Iceni: Sarah Hadland
Mrs. Dougal: Ella Smith
Dimidius: Jamie Demetriou
Timidius: Ncuti Gatwa
Chief of the Army: Dan Renton Skinner
Messenger: Ben Ashenden
Brigantes Warrior: Tony Way
Birte (Third New Recruit): Lucy Montgomery
Weedy Messenger: Jalaal Hartley
Owen Bowen: Mike Wozniak
Percy: Tom Stourton
Drusilla: Jessica Ransom
Watling Street Presenter: Katy Wix
Historian: Greg Jenner
Celt: Lindsey Russell
Rattus Rattus (voice): John Eccleston
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.