Based on Terry Deary’s popular children’s book series, Horrible Histories: The Movie - Rotten Romans expands on one tattered page from our inglorious national past for 92 minutes of toilet humour-laden edutainment punctuated by rumbustious songs.

Director Dominic Brigstocke and his accomplices - screenwriters Caroline Norris, Giles Pilbrow and Jessica Swale - struggle to replicate the breezy, madcap tone of the long-running Horrible Histories TV series, which adopted a sketch format to hop between eras.

Rattus Rattus, the puppet vermin host of the small screen incarnation, is consigned to a pastiche of the MGM company logo at the beginning of the film and a brief coda to confirm any stomach-churning facts underpinning the on-screen tomfoolery.

Song lyrics are snappy and pitched at a young audience.

“I’m better than Caesar/A real diamond geezer,” raps an emasculated Emperor Nero (Craig Roberts) as he attempts to emerge from the shadow of his formidable mother, Agrippa (Kim Cattrall). “I’m the real McCoy/I’m not a mummy’s boy!”

Fleeting cameos provide a few giggles for parents and teenagers.

Warwick Davis delivers a stirring speech as a gladiatorial trainer, who tells his sweat-glistened wards: “I want you all to give it CX percent,” and Sir Derek Jacobi adds gravitas to Emperor Claudius, who perishes shortly after his throat is tickled with a poisoned feather.

In 54 AD, enterprising Roman teenager Atti (Sebastian Croft) earns the gold coins he needs to buy a new pair of sandals by passing off a vial of horse urine as precious gladiators’ perspiration.

Nero (Roberts) receives the bottle as a present and seeks a fitting punishment for Atti’s deception.

“I’ll send you to Britain,” snarls the emperor and he condemns the weakling to serve as a centurion under Decimus (Lee Mack), who dreams of retirement on Italy’s sun-drenched shores.

Far from home, Atti meets feisty Celt teenager Orla (Emilia Jones), whose tribe are part of a rebellion against the Roman empire led by fame-hungry Boudicca (Kate Nash), queen of the fearless Iceni.

Atti and Orla develop a touching friendship as they join forces to rescue Orla’s light-fingered grandmother Brenda (Joanna Bacon) from the clutches of a rival clan. By working together, Atti and Orla hope to outflank the military manoeuvres of Governor General Paulinus (Rupert Graves) and send the Romans back home with spears between their legs.

Horrible Histories: The Movie - Rotten Romans gallops through 1st-century betrayal and bloodshed with vim and a mischievous schoolboy grin. Bodily fluids are used as easy punchlines and wanton violence remains cartoonish like when one character is decapitated and the woman who catches the severed noggin casually inquires: “Anyone missing a head?”

Croft and Jones fling themselves into their roles with gusto, emphasising a strong message of collaboration and gender equality that should resonate clearly with the target audience.

THE CURRENT WAR (12) Two stars

Let there be light! Sadly, there is only gloom in director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s turgid period drama, which promises to illuminate the hard-fought battle of words and copper wires between Thomas Edison and entrepreneur George Westinghouse in the late 19th-century.

The two men publicly disagreed about the best electrical system to usher America out of the gas-powered age - Edison advocated direct current while Westinghouse tethered his hopes to alternating current. The verbal rat-a-tat between two industry titans lit a fuse on the Technological Revolution. Michael Mitnick’s script leaves us in the dark about the pivotal role played by maverick Croatian inventor Nikola Tesla and there are few sparks from leading men Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon.

Texan filmmaker Gomez-Rejon, who previously made the quirky romantic comedy Me And Earl And The Dying Girl, is determined to energise this laboured history lesson with flashy camerawork.

His showmanship behind the lens is particularly distracting in the film’s opening 20 minutes, when we should be getting to know characters rather than suffering a mild bout of dizziness from the technical trickery.

The year is 1880 and Thomas Edison (Cumberbatch) is poised to light up a section of New York with his electrical system, aided by personal secretary Samuel Insull (Tom Holland). The grand unveiling is a rousing success.

Principal investor JP Morgan (Matthew Macfadyen) looks forward to reaping the rewards of Edison’s excellence while newspaper reporters hang on the quixotic inventor’s every utterance. Edison’s reliance on direct current makes it both expensive and labour-intensive to convey current over long distances and businessman George Westinghouse (Shannon) senses an opportunity. He believes that an alternating current system could be cheaper and more efficient.

The two men trade verbal blows as their respective businesses duel for supremacy and Nikola Tesla (Nicholas Hoult) joins Edison’s team of bright young things.

As Edison loses ground on Westinghouse, he takes a calculated decision to link alternating current with the first electric chair, connecting his rival in the public’s mind with the “barbaric” practice of taking a human life. Originally scheduled for release in 2017 before The Weinstein Company filed for bankruptcy, The Current War fights a losing battle from those eye-catching opening frames.

Cumberbatch and Shannon are powerless to plug us into their flawed, emotionally complex characters and Tuppence Middleton and Katherine Waterston are largely wasted as Edison and Westinghouse’s supportive spouses.

Period detail is solid, enhanced with costumes and make-up including a fine set of mutton chops for Holland, who comes back down to earth after his gravity-defying heroics this summer as Spider-Man.

THE INTRUDER (15) Three stars

Scott Howard (Michael Ealy) is creative director at a advertising agency, who lands a huge deal to become the company’s top seller. He celebrates with wife Annie (Meagan Good) by a viewing a new house.

Current owner Charlie Peck (Dennis Quaid) enthusiastically shows the couple around his home. Scott is less than thrilled by Charlie’s cabinet of shotguns and hunting rifles. Against his better judgement, Scott buys the house. Soon after, Charlie appears without warning, offering his assistance to mow the lawn amongst other things.