‘Horrible Histories’ is one of those kids’ TV shows that is adored by children and adults alike. So a first spin-off movie, ‘Rotten Romans’, has some big sandals to fill. Unfortunately, it doesn’t manage it, despite the crowbarred-in Brexit jokes.
When a young Roman (Sebastian Croft) accidentally angers Emperor Nero (Craig Roberts), he is banished to Britain – aka ‘The Stain’ on the palace map – to serve as a legionary. There he is kidnapped by a young Celt (Emilia Jones), who wants to prove herself to her chieftain dad so he’ll let her join the army of Boudicca (Kate Nash). Cue songs, funny costumes and a lot of toilet humour.
But this is where fans of the show may find themselves a little disappointed, because the tunes aren’t particularly catchy, the outfits aren’t that over the top, and the fart jokes, well, stink. The overall feeling is more a kids’ version of ‘Carry On’ (one of the later unfunny ones) than ‘Horrible Histories’.
Familiar Britcom faces like Lee Mack and Nick Frost do their best with what they’re given. The best bits come courtesy of Rupert Graves, who brings some much-needed laughs as a Roman commander who continually refers to himself in the third person, and ‘Horrible Histories’ veteran Katy Wix, who pops up to inject some of the TV show’s old-style humour. But sadly, some of manic anarchy that made the small-screen series so magic is missing. The kids will still enjoy it, but all in all, ‘Rotten Romans’ just needs to be a lot more horrible.