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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Horrible Histories: The Movie - Rotten Romans is a British family comedy -- based on a TV show, series of books, and a website -- with plenty of slapstick violence. The movie, which features an all-star cast -- Nick Frost, Kim Cattrall, Warwick Davis -- takes a humorous look at Ancient Rome, specifically Boudicca's uprising in Britain. Children -- and adults -- are likely to learn a lot. Characters are stabbed to death, poisoned, and hit with objects, but none of it feels realistic. There is some blood spatter, but this is intended for comedic purposes rather than to shock. A severed head lands in someone's arms during a battle scene. While there are some clever jokes about the time period, there is also plenty of potty humor including fart jokes and people being sick. Some of the references are also geared towards a British audience. Both Orla (Emilia Jones) and Boudicca (Kate Nash) are strong female characters -- the latter leading a revolt against the Romans. Orla strikes up a friendship with Atti (Sebastian Croft) that borders on flirting. But ultimately their friendship serves as a message that people can -- and should -- accept each other for who they are, no matter their background. As with the TV show, characters occasionally break into song.
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What's the story?
In HORRIBLE HISTORIES: THE MOVIE - ROTTEN ROMANS, Atti (Sebastian Croft) a teenage centurion, is banished to Britain after upsetting Emperor Nero (Craig Roberts). There he meets a young Celt called Orla (Emilia Jones) who is determined to join Boudicca (Kate Nash) in her uprising against the Romans.
Is it any good?
The British TV series Horrible Histories has acquired a passionate following from both children and parents. Here was a show that expertly blended entertainment with education. A feature-length movie was inevitable. Unfortunately it never quite hits the -- albeit grand -- heights of its smaller screen offering. Perhaps to justify its movie-status, much of the cast from the TV series has been replaced by "bigger" names. Derek Jacobi's cameo as Claudius is a particular joy and nod to older viewers who will have seen him play the same role in I, Claudius. But the ensemble cast feels like a game of "spot the famous person" and the chemistry from the original cast is notably missing.
As with the TV series, the movie is scattered with musical numbers. While it's fun to see a tribe of Celts singing about how they will defeat the Romans, the songs are all instantly forgettable. The jokes are a mix of potty humor, and historical and cultural references. On the whole, they all land -- a joke about "limiting scroll time" being a highlight. Add to this the education value the movie provides -- Horrible Histories prides itself on its historical accuracy -- and there's much to take from this big screen debut. Perhaps it's just a result of being so spoiled with the TV show that expectations aren't quite realized.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why it's important to understand history in Horrible Histories: The Movie - Rotten Romans. Did you see any correlation about what happens in the movie and what's happening today?
Talk some more about the Romans. Who were they? Were they good, bad, or both?
Discuss the violence in the movie. Did it feel realistic? Did that impact how you felt about it?
What positive messages can you take from the movie? How might we apply those to real life?
How did the movie compare to the TV series and the books? What did you like? What didn't you like?
- In theaters: July 26, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: November 27, 2019
- Cast: Sebastian Croft, Emilia Jones, Nick Frost
- Director: Dominic Brigstocke
- Studio: Altitude Film Distribution
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Book Characters, History
- Character strengths: Courage, Teamwork
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: August 12, 2021
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