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“Not at all what you’d expect.”

I could hear Chris’s eyes rolling when the title came up – I can’t blame her, as the viewing immediately followed Virgin Commandos, whose mere name sent her scurrying off to Facebook poker. This, however, was not the soft-porn flick she anticipated. Instead, it’s a comedy, somewhat spoofing Gladiator, but its closest cousin is likely Carry On Cleo. That said, it’s undeniably gynocentric, with the three heroines about the only competent characters on either side.

It’s set in 55 BC, when Caesar (Vibert) made his first push into Britain. Resistance is led by warrior princess Dwyfuc (Mackichan), but when she is captured by the Romans, it’s up to little sister Worthaboutapig (Phillips) to rescue her. To do so, she must first enlist the support of their estranged sister, the even more warrior-like princess Smirgut the Fierce (Allen). After venturing across the channel (mistaking France for Rome), the trio are re-united only to have to fight undefeated Goth Schlaffwaffe in the arena. And even if they win, there’s still the little matter of the Roman armies, massing for another invasion attempt.

They were also the creators of UK sketch series Smack the Pony, and this is a similar mix of the mundane and surreal. While you do definitely need a particular sense of humour to appreciate this – if you don’t, this could well seem the worst film ever – it hit enough spots for us. Much of it is simply playing against type and expectations, e.g. Smirgut, who really looks like she could kick your ass (above right), and growls as a means of communication – then launches into a discourse on discovering Worthaboutapig is actually happy with her new life as a Roman slave.

The action is undeniably limited, being played more for laughs than excitement – the much-fabled ‘Celtic Kick’, turns out to be not quite what you think. Of course, this being British humour, there are also fart and willie jokes, but works because the characters have foibles and quirks to render them human. Smirgut has lost her inner warrior since motherhood; Dwyfuc is thoroughly unimpressed by the men available to her, and Worthaboutapig has long-standing self-esteem issues – unsurprisingly, really, given her name. The results are heroines who are likeable, as well as being brave and resourceful. I found the results very refreshing, with better-drawn characters than many bigger budget movies. That was definitely not what we expected from this.

Dir: Brian Grant
Star: Sally Phillips, Fiona Allen, Doon Mackichan, Ronan Vibert

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