The Horrible Histories team hit the big screen at last! Shame, it didn’t live up to the hype.
What really happened during Shakespeare’s ‘Lost Years’? Hopeless lute player Bill Shakespeare (Matthew Baynton) leaves his home to follow his dream.
“A time of war and plague. BUT mainly war”. From the opening credits, I knew what I was in for. A silly adventure. Not a bad thing by any means. BUT it was always going to suffer tough comparisons to the award winning BBC TV show Horrible Histories. Which tragically it falls short of.
“People will remember the name Shakespeare . . . Twenty years from now”.
Matthew Baynton was great as Shakespeare. Bumbling and baffling away as he desperately tries to hone in his craft. Well, whatever craft he decides to be interested in at the time to avoid getting a job. Martha Howe-Douglas played the part of Shakespeare’s long suffering wife well as she endures another crazy whim as Bill seeks London for fame and fortune.
I couldn’t believe that Damian Lewis had a cameo as Sir Richard Hawkins. Professional thief and “royal pain in the bum hole”. The only problem was that his character didn’t really do anything and spent the rest of the movie in a cell. Shame. Helen McCrory may have looked the part as Queen Elizabeth I. Hideously caked in make up BUT she wasn’t really that memorable or funny for that matter.
The real stars was the Histories team yet again. Simon Farnaby used to annoy me in the series BUT I have to say he was fantastic as the neglected Earl of Crawley (Croydon!). Jim Howick was superb as Christopher Marlowe. His inability to deliver a “Your mum” joke was hilarious. Uttering a gag at all the wrong times and in the completely wrong context.
Ben Willbond was brilliant as King Phillip II of Spain. He camped it up a treat. He stole the scene every time. In one moment, the mad monarch was slaying oranges with his sword. A lady in waiting asks him the score. And with a bemused grin, he looks to the camera and simply says, “Juice”.
It was easygoing fun watching Bill get thrown out of his lute band Mortal Coil. His extreme lute solo was hilarious. His introduction to London was very Pythonesque. It was gritty and filthy with people being mugged, stabbed or gobbing on the streets. Delightful. The “Bring Out Your Dead” joke in full flair. The collector even tries to take one of Bill’s mates in an “emotional farewell” after being stabbed.
The bum jokes and endless slapstick gags delivered the odd chuckle BUT it soon got repetitive. Once you seen one peasant hit on the head with a stick, you seen it all. However, the pace did drop in places. For every good gag, there were several duds.
I loved the kid friendly Python vibe from the Earl of Croydon using his own servant as a human shield to evade mugging to King Phillip’s check-in at customs on the beaches of Dover. Cracking stuff.
The closing moments were very hit and miss. The series of unfortunate misunderstandings musical number was a bit of a dud. While the little Shakespeare references were spot on. “Tis the play that’s the thing. You know. Bling and ting”.
I can’t believe I’m saying this BUT it all got a little too silly for my liking. I know that this was a kids film BUT what I liked about Horrible Histories was the fact that it could amuse anyone. The gags, especially in the finale, were definitely aimed more at the little ‘uns.
Once Prince Philip had revealed himself with his fake mustache over his real tash for the umpteenth time, I could feel my eyes wondering to the little hands on the clock. Too patchy. Very much like their Sky puppet show Ponderland.
It was just a shame that the transition from 30 minute TV specials to 90 minute features may have been a bridge too far. BUT fans of the HH franchise and newbies will still enjoy this mad little movie. Maybe it was a case of too high an expectation for me.