Working a little too hard at claiming the sophisticated silliness vibe of MONTY PYTHON or BLACK ADDER, the folks from Britain’s popular HORRIBLE HISTORY series (not seen here) take on the young William Shakespeare of ‘the lost years’ (1589 - 1593) to reasonably good-natured effect.* Though lamed by a couple of bad story ideas (Spain's King Phillip II and Shakespeare’s wife Anne in London?), the general tone of ‘anything goes’ gags & twisted literary references manage to come across with enough comic charge & witless charm to make their mark. The look of the thing is often quite convincing (and fun), more so than in many a serious look at the period. (At least they let some light in.) And the mentor relationship between Shakespeare and dangerous Christopher Marlowe pays off nicely, especially when he shows up a la Banquo’s Ghost. If only director Richard Bracewell and writers Laurence Rickard & Ben Willbond showed a little more faith in the pleasures of good dumb fun, leaving behind more of the goofy anachronisms, tangled plot and de rigeur iconoclastic irreverence.
DOUBLE-BILL: *Coming soon to a cable or streaming service near you: WILL/’17, a new series on the very same ‘lost years.’ (Hey, it can’t be any worse than ANONYMOUS/’11 or SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE/’98, one of the many recent Oscar® Best Pics you’d be wise not to revisit.)