Have you ever wondered what actually happened during Shakespeare’s fabled “lost years”? Did you ever consider how he went from being a burgeoning actor in Stratford, struggling with a young family, to a successful playwright at the heart of London’s theatrical scene some seven years later? No? Well the team behind the Horrible Histories television series have, and the result is Bill, a film that aims to shed some light on that crucial missing period.
In this version of the legend our bard-in-waiting has tried everything from contemporary dance to playing the lute in a local “rock” band. Thus far, nothing has proven to be his calling. Now, with dreams of becoming a writer, young William heads off to “that there London” to find his fortune but instead becomes embroiled in a plot by King Philip II of Spain to blow up Queen Elizabeth I. Obvious really.
However cynically you might approach Bill, it generates so much goodwill that it becomes impossible not to be drawn in by the film’s inherent enthusiasm and joyful Christmas cracker-esque punchlines. It is nonsense, but very humorous nonsense in a parental guidance, pre-watershed Monty Python kind of way. The majority of the cast take on multiple roles, and the variations in preposterous wigs and facial hair attachments means they get away with it. Credit must also be given for the abundance of background sight gags, clever repetitions and witty exchanges which are reminiscent of some of Aardman’s best work. Bill also cleverly avoids the pitfall of becoming too episodic, like a series of sketches clumsily bolted together. The narrative flows along smoothly and with pace, never allowing individual scenes to outstay their welcome.
This is clearly a family orientated film and one that will demand repeat viewing from younger audiences, but like Python it will always draw a chuckle from any casual viewer, however reluctant that might be on the umpteenth viewing. Think of Bill as a pantomime that you will actually enjoy. There is a cast that, with one or two acceptable exceptions, remain just the right side of hammy, there is a script that is hard not to like, and a message about pursuing your dreams that, well, is there if you really want to see it.
Simply put, Bill is good fun. It won’t win any awards, but there are more than enough laughs, the acting is credible (although one or two of the Spanish accents waiver a tad from time to time), and as with all the best Shakespearean comedies, there is even a little crossdressing. You’d have to be pretty grumpy not to enjoy it.
BILL / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: RICHARD BRACEWELL / SCREENPLAY: LAWRENCE RICKARD, BEN WILLBOND / STARRING: MATTHEW BAYNTON, SIMON FARNABY, MARTHA HOWE-DOUGLAS, JIM HOWICK / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 18TH
Expected Rating: 6 out of 10Actual Rating: