There’ll always be a memory or two associated with Horrid Henry: The Movie. Pancakes on a Thursday afternoon after finishing school, sat in front of the TV waiting for 16:30 when Horrid Henry would come on CITV. Another, more recent memory, is polishing off a quarter bottle of Bullet Bourbon and sticking Horrid Henry: The Movie, the awful adaptation of the Francesca Simon books, on the telly and trying to rekindle some love for being young. No such luck. This star-stuffed package of British stars is more a reminder of why audiences must never rely on nostalgia in the hopes it may spark something in their hearts. It will not, and you will look a fool for thinking it was ever possible.
Awful for a strange variety of reasons, Horrid Henry: The Movie is a National Lottery funded piece that acts more as community service for former British stars than it does a film wanting to adapt the frankly solid works of Simon’s writing. Was it ever going to work? No. Naturally, the issue of adapting a text to animated series to film is that something is lost in translation. But to do so twice is to lose twice as much. Gone are the charms of animation and the quick-fire pace of simplicity found in there, replaced by sped-up footage and wacky sound effects.
The trade-off is clear and rather repugnant. Seeing Dick and Dom, who this generation will know from Da’ Bungalow, trade off their charms and creamy muck muck for a setlist of dull game-show host pointers is not all that grand. But such is the life of children’s television entertainers. Also found within is the stalwart, talented comics Rebecca Front, Matthew Horne, Noel Fielding and David Schneider. If that weren’t enough for the wasted talent throughout, big names Richard E. Grant and Anjelica Huston feature also. Grant’s role is the only clear villain, aside from Schneider whose role as Soggy Sid appears to have turned the man into a maniac. There is no coming back from such a performance. Grant isn’t too bad, surprisingly. He at the very least is enjoying himself and his role shows as much. Vic Van Wrinkle, the saving grace of Horrid Henry: The Movie, a character that didn’t appear in any other bit of Horrid Henry merchandising or making.
“Rockin’ hell,” Henry says before jumping into one of the many musical numbers found throughout this nonsense. Mirrored cameras with the focus in the centre were oddly popular in 2011. A lot of the cast here are trying to adapt something that only works for animation. One-note characters that can be thrown in and out of supporting roles in a fast and loose series of stories. Stretching them beyond twenty minutes is a crime, but an hour-and-a-half? Barbaric. Torturous. Nostalgia is a poisonous beast dead set on directing a stream of horror toward audiences who may be vaguely fond of a series of books that treated them to adventure after adventure. Instead, Horrid Henry: The Movie loses the charm of the animated series, and the depth of fun to be had in the books. Both are gone, replaced by cameo content and cheap grabs at what made the work so good.