Watered down and rather unfunny, Rotten Romans will bore you silly unless you’re that into juvenile goofy humour.
Horrible Histories: The Movie – Rotten Romans Synopsis
A feature-length film based on the popular CBBC children’s series, Horrible Histories: The Movie – Rotten Romans tells the “story” behind the AD 60/61 Boudican Revolt. Atti, an intelligent but physically weak Roman teen, is sent to Britain after offending the despotic Emperor Nero. There, he is captured and imprisoned by Orla, a spirited Celtic girl inspired by Boudica to pick up arms. While the two, expectedly, soon fall in love, Atti also finds himself sucked into the heart of the decisive battle between the Roman and Celtic forces. To his horror, his suggestions then pave the way for Boudica’s defeat in the Battle of Watling Street.
If I remember correctly, I first came across the Horrible Histories books in the early 2010s. (The first one I read was Terrible Tudors, which had such an hmmmmm cover) A big fan of black humour, I fell in love with the series, to the extent I went to the library several times to browse through whichever title I could find.
As for what I loved about the books, well, it was the careful balance of fact and comedy. What’s historically significant is always there. What’s historically awful is suitably moderated too, for the sake of very young readers. Overall, I found the series well-conceptualised, truly ideal for consumption by all ages.
My love for the books thus contributed to me having high expectations for this movie. Now, before I continue, let me highlight that I’m familiar with the books, not the CBBC series, which I haven’t watched much of. Perhaps because of that, I found the movie to be … really dry and draggy.
Yes. Dry and draggy. Uninspired and inane too.
Not that there are no gags. What I mean is that the humour is downright bland and repetitive. Also, quite, quite lacking the sort of wit found in the one-liners of the books.
There’s also the matter of the movie title. On the whole, the Romans depicted just aren’t very rotten. Not even Nero, who comes across as more of an insecure brat than anything else.
In short, I think Rotten Romans would probably only be entertaining for those with an insatiable appetite for goofiness and the inane. Some children might not even want to sit through the whole show. The show does get that bland in the second half.