I have always enjoyed me some Roald Dahl. It had been many years since I saw the film adaptation of Dahl’s novel Matilda starring Danny DeVito. It had been so long now that I hardly remembered much about it. However, I was intrigued to see a new version of the film, in fact a musical, coming to the cinema before arriving on Netflix.
In truth, the new film, Matilda the Musical, is an adaptation of a multiple Tony and Olivier award-winning stage musical, which adapted Dahl’s novel and the last film. I was unaware of the stage version of this story, but it made sense with the level of music this movie displayed.
The basic story is the same. Matilda (Alisha Weir) in an exceptionally intelligent and talented child who was born into a family that did not ever want her. Her parents (Stephen Graham and Andrea Riseborough) were selfish and self-absorbed and were desperately neglectful toward Matilda, including forgetting to send her to school. Matilda had taken it upon herself to learn on her own through reading and a positive relationship with librarian Mrs. Phelps (Sindhu Vee).
When Matilda was finally able to go to school, she was enrolled at a school where the headmistress was a vile, cruel and vicious woman named Agatha Trunchbull (Emma Thompson), who hated children and called them maggots, searching for every opportunity she had to punish them. Meanwhile, Matilda’s new classroom teacher, Miss Honey (Lashana Lynch) realized what a special girl Matilda was and looked to provide enrichment to the young genius.
I loved this musical. The music itself was just fantastic. The lyrics of these songs were brilliantly constructed and about as clever as they were going to be. I actually had some thoughts comparing these lyrics to the lyrics in Hamilton as I was listening to the wonderful word play. The music was catchy and engaging and never felt like it overshadowed the story. The choreography of the dance numbers to these songs were off the chart as well. The amazing cast of children performed these dance routines flawlessly and totally entertainingly.
Alisha Weir was astounding as the titular character. Not only did she nail her musical moments, Weir was engaging and filled with a remarkable energy every moment on the screen. As she was telling her story to Mrs. Phelps, she delivered it with so much emotion and energy that she absolutely sold the performance. She was able to hold her own with several talented actors who were her senior and had years more experience. Taking this film on her shoulders, Weir absolutely dominated the role.
Another performance of the utmost brilliance was Emma Thompson as Agatha Trunchbull. To be honest, I had no idea this was Thompson until the credits after the film ended. I had seen Emma Thompson’s name at the beginning, but it slipped my mind until the close. She delivered one of the best villainous roles of the year and the make up was unbelievable. She had been transformed into this hammer throwing, pigtail hating administrator. You could tell how much fun she was having with this role.
The other children were sensational too, whether they had a named role or were just background dancers for the music sections. Some of the excellent performers included Charlie Hodson-Prior, Rei Yamauchi Fulker, Meesha Garbett, Winter Jarrett-Glasspool and Ashton Robertson.
This was not a beat-by-beat remake of the Matilda movie from 1996 nor was it just the same film with musical numbers added to it. The story added some wonderful pieces to it to make Matilda the Musical its own thing. Some times it is difficult to adapt a stage play to the big screen, however, director Matthew Warchus hit every note beautifully. He had a history in musical theater and it showed with his translation here.
I had just the most exceptional time with Matilda the Musical and I cannot wait for this film to become available on Netflix so I can watch it again. I believe it is coming to Netflix this Christmas season so it give me one more thing to look forward to this holiday season.