After watching the lovely but quite sad Ordinary Love for my Tuesday Review this week, I wanted to find something a bit sillier for my Throwback Thursday Review. After all, we’re living in quite a challenging time, so it’s important to find something to laugh about. I recently watched Horrible Histories: The Movie and it was pretty good. I know that I’m way too old for the television show at this point but I think it’s genius. I know that I read the books when I was younger but I’m not sure I ever truly appreciated them. If only the show had been around when I was a kid. I grew up loving history but I was always a little out of my depth academically. Although, if there’s one thing I do know, it’s literary history. So, of course, I appreciated the fact that the people behind Horrible Histories have also made a film about one of literature’s biggest figures. I never watched Bill when it came out. Maybe it was time?
William Shakespeare might be one of the greatest writers to have ever lived but we don’t know much about him. It’s a consequence of being born in 1564 I guess. We don’t even know the exact day that he was born, which is why we celebrate it on the date of his death. Historians have found out bits and bobs about him but there is still a massive gap. Which is why people feel so desperate to make it up. Having such a huge figure who is also such a mystery is fascinating. We live in an age where we know so much about famous people thanks to our super intrusive media. So, how is it even possible that we know basically nothing about such a revered literary figure?
It was unlikely that the minds behind the Horrible Histories television show were ever going to do something sensible when they tackled the bard and they’ve certainly had fun explaining where he came from. The film deals with Shakespeare’s early years and his rise to fame. Having failed to make it as a lute player in a band, Bill decides to try his luck as a writer in London. Unfortunately, plays aren’t really doing so well at that time so he has to take whatever work he can. Until he finds a writing job as a playwright putting on a play for Queen Elizabeth and King Phillip II of Spain. Unfortunately, he also gets mixed up in a plot to kill the Queen without even realising.
The film has all of the trademark fun and constant jokes that you associate with the TV show. It definitely feels like it would please young audiences thanks to the neverending supply of gags. Bill is super silly and takes plenty of liberties with history. Still, there are plenty of historical jokes that work really well. Of course, these are well-balanced with the general slapstick that we’re all really looking for. My only problem is, there seemed to be an awful lot going on. The subplot seemed to get quite messy and confusing. Especially for younger audiences. It seemed as though it would have been easy to simplify the narrative and focus on the jokes. There was plenty available to them.
Although, Bill is an enjoyable watch. It’s a bit of fun and certainly makes a change from the usual Shakespeare story we see. Gone are the assumptions that somebody else wrote the plays for him. Instead, we’re just meant to embrace the bard and the silliness of this era. It also contains the most brutal depiction of Queen Elizabeth that we’ve probably ever seen on film. You won’t regret watching this film but, if you know the show, you may be a little disappointed.