Best Kids' Movies

Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical – Film Review

Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical – Film Review
by Katie McCann

Director – Matthew Warchus
Writer – Roald Dahl(based on the book by), Dennis Kelly(screenplay: musical book) etc.
Stars – Alisha Weir, Andrea Riseborough, Emma Thompson, Lashana Lynch

There are some literary characters that have a life bigger than that of their original creator’s work; Dracula, Frankenstein, and Matilda! Roald Dahl’s prepubescent heroine has lived large in the imagination of numerous generations ever since she first appeared in print in 1988 and then with her first on-screen outing in Danny DeVito’s adaptation in 1996. Now Matilda is back on our screens to charm and inspire a whole new generation in Tim Minchin and Dennis Kelly’s smash hit stage musical brought to the silver screen by director Mathew Warchus.

Matilda Wormwood (Alisha Weir) is extraordinary, except her parents really don’t think she is. In fact, they think she’s such a pain that they’ve forgotten to send their precocious child to school, even though she has managed to teach herself how to read and is already consuming Tolstoy and Steinbeck. Thinking school will be an escape from her rotten life, unfortunately, Matilda soon discovers that Crunchem Hall, along with its headmistress Miss Trunchbull (Emma Thompson), is less of an educational haven and more of a prison. Thank god for her teacher Miss Honey (Lashana Lynch) who not only believes that children are people but that they deserve to be treated with patience and kindness (both radical concepts at Crunchum Hall). But as injustice after injustice starts to pile up against Matilda, she decides it’s time to take matters into her own hands.

Yes, this is a children’s story. Yes, it is silly and fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously. But more importantly, it is stuffed full of heart and courage. And who doesn’t need a bit of that in their life right now? Matilda is beautifully played by the young Irish actress Alisha Weir, who reminds us all that sometimes the world isn’t fair but that doesn’t mean you have to sit back and take it. The entire cast, including the incredible ensemble of young people, are brilliant and elevate every scene. The music and songs are incredibly funny except when they are heartbreaking. Minchin and Kelly know how to grab children’s attention but also how to hit a grown-up right in the feels when they least expect it.

There are some changes and omissions in the film that devotees of the book or musical might be disappointed with but overall this is an adaptation worthy of Roald Dahl’s legacy. It is witty, dark, funny, charming and a bit of a tear-jerker at times. I feel like children and adults will really enjoy this raucous thrill ride. It is clear to see why Matilda has lasted all these years because at the end of the day, isn’t it worth being reminded that it’s ok to stand up for yourself? That you get to write your own story., and that when things aren’t right sometimes, just sometimes, it’s alright to be a little bit naughty!

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