Toi­let hu­mour abounds in TV se­ries spin-off movie

HOR­RI­BLE HIS­TO­RIES: THE MOVIE – ROT­TEN RO­MANS (PG, 92 mins)

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - ENTERTAINM­ENT -

BASED on Terry Deary’s pop­u­lar chil­dren’s book se­ries, Hor­ri­ble His­to­ries: The Movie – Rot­ten Ro­mans ex­pands on one tat­tered page from our in­glo­ri­ous na­tional past for 92 min­utes of toi­let hu­mour-laden edu­tain­ment punc­tu­ated by rum­bus­tious songs.

Di­rec­tor Do­minic Brig­stocke and his ac­com­plices – screen­writ­ers Caro­line Nor­ris, Giles Pil­brow and Jessica Swale – strug­gle to repli­cate the breezy, mad­cap tone of the long-run­ning Hor­ri­ble His­to­ries TV se­ries, which adopted a sketch format to hop be­tween eras.

Rat­tus Rat­tus, the pup­pet ver­min host of the small screen in­car­na­tion, is con­signed to a pas­tiche of the MGM com­pany logo at the be­gin­ning of the film and a brief coda to con­firm any stomach-churn­ing facts un­der­pin­ning the on-screen tom­fool­ery.

Song lyrics are snappy and pitched at a young au­di­ence.

“I’m bet­ter than Caesar/A real di­a­mond geezer,” raps an emas­cu­lated Em­peror Nero (Craig Roberts) as he at­tempts to emerge from the shadow of his for­mi­da­ble mother, Agrippa (Kim Cat­trall). “I’m the real McCoy/I’m not a mummy’s boy!”

Fleet­ing cameos pro­vide a few gig­gles for par­ents and teenagers.

War­wick Davis de­liv­ers a stir­ring speech as a glad­i­a­to­rial trainer, who tells his sweat-glis­tened wards: “I want you all to give it CX per­cent,” and Sir Derek Ja­cobi adds grav­i­tas to Em­peror Claudius, who per­ishes shortly af­ter his throat is tickled with a poi­soned feather.

In 54 AD, en­ter­pris­ing Ro­man teenager Atti (Se­bas­tian Croft) earns the gold coins he needs to buy a new pair of san­dals by pass­ing off a vial of horse urine as pre­cious gla­di­a­tors’ per­spi­ra­tion.

Nero (Roberts) re­ceives the bot­tle as a present and seeks a fit­ting pun­ish­ment for Atti’s de­cep­tion.

“I’ll send you to Bri­tain,” snarls the em­peror and he con­demns the weak­ling to serve as a cen­tu­rion un­der Dec­imus (Lee Mack), who dreams of retirement on Italy’s sun-drenched shores.

Far from home, Atti meets feisty Celt teenager Orla (Emilia Jones), whose tribe are part of a re­bel­lion against the Ro­man empire led by fame-hun­gry Boudicca (Kate Nash), queen of the fear­less Iceni.

Atti and Orla de­velop a touch­ing friend­ship as they join forces to res­cue Orla’s light-fin­gered grand­mother Brenda (Joanna Bacon) from the clutches of a ri­val clan.

By work­ing to­gether, Atti and Orla hope to out­flank the mil­i­tary ma­noeu­vres of Gov­er­nor Gen­eral Pauli­nus (Ru­pert Graves) and send the Ro­mans back home with spears be­tween their legs.

Hor­ri­ble His­to­ries: The Movie – Rot­ten Ro­mans gal­lops through 1st-cen­tury be­trayal and blood­shed with vim and a mis­chievous school­boy grin.

Bod­ily flu­ids are used as easy punch­lines and wan­ton vi­o­lence re­mains car­toon­ish like when one char­ac­ter is de­cap­i­tated and the woman who catches the sev­ered nog­gin ca­su­ally in­quires: “Any­one miss­ing a head?”

Croft and Jones fling them­selves into their roles with gusto, em­pha­sis­ing a strong mes­sage of collaborat­ion and gen­der equal­ity that should res­onate clearly with the tar­get au­di­ence.

RAT­ING: 6/10

Atti (Se­bas­tian Croft) and Orla (Emilia Jones) in Hor­ri­ble His­to­ries: The Movie – Rot­ten Ro­mans.

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