ROALD DAHL'S MATILDA THE MUSICAL
December 25, 2022 / Netflix
Starring: Alisha Weir, Lashana Lynch, Stephen Graham, Emma Thompson
Directed By: Matthew Warchus
A brand new take on the Tony and Olivier award-winning musical. Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical tells the story of an extraordinary girl, with a vivid imagination, who dares to take a stand to change her story with miraculous results.
Written By Darren
Rating 4 out of 5
Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical is a joyous cinematic experience, full of show stopping musical numbers and a trio of great performances from Emma Thompson, Lashana Lynch and Alisha Weir that makes for a truly fun film.
Roald Dahl stories have been entertaining audiences for ages, with adaptations like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches, James and the Giant Peach, and of course, Matilda. Matilda found new life back in 2011 as a stage musical when it opened in London’s West End, which has remained there ever since and sprung multiple productions around the world. It was not a musical I have seen live, but ever since Netflix announced that they would be bringing Tim Minchin’s musical to the big screen, I was excited. And from the second the film begins, the opening musical number creates an infectious energy that propels the entire film that is guaranteed to have you tapping your feet until the film’s final musical number. Like the original novel and film, the musical tells the story of Matilda, a highly intelligent young girl with a vivid imagination who begins attending a new school. The school is run by the tyrannical headmistress Miss Trunchbull, who terrorizes the children, but Matilda takes a stand to change her story and that of her classmates to miraculous results.
Like all of Dahl’s stories, there is an inherent darkness that will shock adult viewers that this story is meant for children. There are moments that are truly terrifying and push the boundaries for what is appropriate to show to children, which had a few young children fleeing my theatre in tears, but the childhood perspective from Matilda makes the story more wondrous than scary. It walks a fine line, but when combining the youthful innocence of Matilda and the great songs of Tim Minchin’s songs, Matilda the Musical is truly an experience that the entire family can enjoy (guaranteed they’re above the age of five).
The story itself is great, full of some great laughs, startling moments that have you worried for the young children, as well as a great subplot surrounding Matilda’s love of storytelling that packs an unforeseen emotional punch for those who are unfamiliar with the story. Sure, the film is slightly too long by about ten minutes, as it does drag a bit in the middle of what would be the stage musical’s second act, but it is such a fun and entertaining film that it is easy to forgive it for slightly overstaying its welcome.
Being a musical, the musical numbers are vital to the film and the majority of them are outstanding. Each of them is larger than life, capturing the energy that you would expect of a live stage musical but translating the sequences to a more cinematic scale. Ellen Kane’s choreography is excellent, energizing each musical number with extravagant dance routines performed by over 200 child performers. The lyrics are incredibly catchy, while the orchestrations capture the grand musical theatre style that has caused so many audiences to fall in love with this musical. Easily the standout musical numbers are “Miracle”, “Naughty”, “School Song” and “Revolting Children”, while “Still Holding My Hand” is a great new song from Minchin to conclude the film.
Though, walking out of the theatre, it is the outstanding performances in the film that you will remember. Leading the film is Alisha Weir as Matilda, and she is a bundle of energy and talent. Bringing a mischievous yet inquisitive personality to Matilda, Weir is a true talent that cannot be contained in this film. Her singing is great as she brings an unbridled talent to the musical numbers, while running circles around her fellow young actors. It is truly staggering that she was only eleven at the time of filming and that this is her first leading role, because she carries herself like she has been leading films for years.
Lashana Lynch continues a string of outstanding performances after No Time to Die and The Woman King as Matilda’s teacher Miss Honey. Lynch brings a true warmth and compassion to this darker story as Miss Honey, creating one of the few adult characters that is looking out for Matilda in the film. Watching her on screen with Weir is a delight as the two of them craft a truly wonderful bond in a matter of minutes on screen together. Though it is Lynch who brings emotional depth to the film with her character’s shocking and beautiful character arc, culminating in her performance of “My House” where she truly wows and displays some serious singing abilities. Take note Hollywood, Lynch needs to be cast in more musicals going forward.
But it is Emma Thompson who steals the show as Miss Trunchbull. While the role has been portrayed by male actors in the live musical, Thompson is wickedly vile and dominates the screen while she is on it. She will send shivers down your spine as she torments the children with glee, creating one of the most memorable villains in a family film in recent memory. While it is unlikely that she will break into the Oscar race, I do see her being a dark horse for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes because this is the best performance we have seen from Thompson in the past couple of years. Rounding out the principal cast is Andrea Riseborough and Stephen Graham as the Wormwoods, and the two of them are absolutely hilarious and truly sinister as Matilda’s parents.
I never bet against a musical, but I am truly impressed by how great Matilda the Musical was. Full of showstopping musical numbers that deliver the excitement of a live stage musical, an incredible amount of heart, and an outstanding trio of performances from Emma Thompson, Alisha Weir and Lashana Lynch, Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical is destined to be the surprise streaming hit of the holiday season that you will not want to miss!