The story of Bill needs no introduction. I mean everyone has heard the tale of Shakespeare, who is still going by Bill at this point, being kicked out of his lute band (Mortal Coil) and moving to London where he and his first play get embroiled in a Catholic plot to kill Queen Elizabeth. It’s basically history 101.
Coming from the minds of the people who gave us Yonderland and Horrible Histories, Bill is silly. In fact, you might go as far as saying very silly. It’s full of the simple kind of jokes that you can’t help but chuckle along to, be you six or be you 50. Which is important, because many will dismiss this as a children’s film, while in reality it is nothing of the sort. Yes your child will enjoy it, or at least I certainly would have, but there will be parts that go flying over their head and straight into yours.
Which is always a bit of a dangerous game. A lot of films aim for that but end up with something that appeals to neither audience. However, a lot of films don’t have the talent on board that Bill does. With most members of the cast playing more than one person, it’s a small team, but one that does the job admirably. The gags flow freely and while there are several that will only hit with those aware of the work of Shakespeare, those with no knowledge of the Bard won’t struggle to find something for them.
Where the film really comes to life is in the small moments. The women who wanders the streets of London collecting the dead or the guards that stand outside the palace, bopping along whenever a trumpet is played. These incidental moments of comedy are great and play to the strengths of this cast, with their sketch show background. It makes this over the top version of London one that you wish to explore, even if its only just finding out what is around the next corner.
Bill is the kind of film that makes an hour and a half fly by. It’s full of the kind of surreal humour that you would never expect to see in an apparently child orientated film, but yet it works. Because they’re never afraid to go back to the simple stuff. By taking the best of silly and the best of intelligent, they’ve made a film about Shakespeare that people of all ages will want to watch.