5.4/10 ‎(554 votes)
69% (26 reviews)

Horrible Histories: The Movie – Rotten Romans Movie Details

Directed by Dominic Brigstocke
Written by
  • Jessica Swale
  • Giles Pilbrow
  • Caroline Norris
Based on
Horrible Histories by

  • Terry Deary
  • Sebastian Croft
  • Emilia Jones
  • Nick Frost
  • Craig Roberts
  • Kim Cattrall
  • Kate Nash
  • Rupert Graves
  • Alex Macqueen
  • Derek Jacobi
Production companies
  • Altitude Film Entertainment
  • CBBC
  • BBC Films
  • Citrus Films
Distributed by Altitude Film Distribution
Release date
  • 26 July 2019
Running time
92 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office $3.6 million

I was never the type of kid you could describe as a bookworm. To this day reading a whole book is something I’ll admit I rarely have the concentration span to do. There are loads sitting on my shelf that have bookmarks placed 2 or 3 chapters in. That said, I was always engaged when it came to the Horrible Histories series by author Terry Deary. Those books made education fun; ‘The Groovy Greeks’ being a particular favorite of mine.

By the time the TV series came out, I was already past the age of the target audience. I’ve still seen and relatively enjoyed, the odd sketch from it though. Their musical numbers, in particular, I do quite like. Having debated whether or not to bother seeing the movie I just figured how bad could it be? The answer is actually pretty bad.

A young roman soldier, Atti (Sebastian Croft), gets captured by a Celt girl, Orla (Emilia Jones), after being sent to Britain as a punishment. Orla wants to be a warrior like the revolutionary Boudicca (Kate Nash), but her protective father, Argus (Nick Frost), is against the idea. Meanwhile, in Rome, Emperor Nero (Craig Roberts) is trying to establish himself as the new ruler but is becoming increasingly frustrated with his mother, Agrippina (Kim Cattrall), who seeks to maintain as much power for herself as she can.

I’m not exactly sure what I expected from this movie, but what I got was quite the disappointment. I know I’m not the target audience, but given what I’ve seen of the TV series, I feel like this should have been a lot better than what it was.
I’ll begin with the music. One of the strongest parts of the TV show, but it was one of the weakest parts of this movie. The songs weren’t as clever or catchy, and most of the time the singing was…well let’s just call it below average – and that includes the professional singer Kate Nash.

As this is primarily a comedy I did hope for a lot of laughs. I had heard a few promotional clips which were worth a small giggle. They were mostly puns, which I’m a big fan of. As I should have expected though, these were pretty much the funniest jokes from the movie. The other parts that brought a small laugh out of me were some gags relation to roman numerals and a childish gag referencing the famous “I’m Spartacus” scene from the Stanley Kubrick classic ‘Spartacus’ from 1960. I suspect it’s a joke that went over the head of most (if not all) of the kids; but given the wordplay, they’ll laugh anyways. On the whole, I felt like it probably should have been a lot funnier, but the writing wasn’t good enough.

In terms of the casting they took the interesting decision of replacing the cast of the TV show with a variety of B and C list British celebrities, I guess in the hope their name value would sell more tickets. As well as the abovementioned, we also see cameos from the likes of Alexander Armstrong, Warwick Davies, Rupert Graves, Kevin Bishop, Chris Addison, Sanjeev Baskar, Lee Mack and Sir Derek Jacobi. Given the fact that none of them gave particularly good performances, I think they probably should have just been faithful to the cast members who have helped make the TV so successful in the first place.

The best part of the film for me was probably the subplot involving Atti and Orla, in which Emilia Jones (daughter of child singer turner TV presenter Aled Jones) gives arguably the best performance of the whole movie. She also had by far the best singing voice.

If you’re after something relatively inoffensive to take your kids to then this will do the trick. That said, given the amount of running around I saw in the cinema, perhaps it’s not going to hold their attention as much as you’ll hope. The occasion laugh and the performance of Emilia Jones are not enough for me to recommend this movie. Parents should save their money and just have their kids watch the TV show (or read the books) instead.


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