“Matilda” by Roald Dahl was released in 1988 and is still one of Dahl’s most-sold books. In 1996, a feature film adaptation was released and has become a classic among many 90’s kids. Now in 2022, we have a new adaptation but how does it hold up?
The first thing to mention is that this movie is an adaptation of the 2010 stage musical and not the 1996 film. Most people who watch this film will more than likely compare it to the other one, even though this one definitely can stand on its own just fine. To compare is okay though because this movie actually does some things better than the 90’s one.
Matilda, for those who are unaware, is about a special girl who loves to learn and read. Her parents are terrible people who treat Matilda harshly and send her to a school run by the malicious Ms. Trunchbull. Along the way, Matilda makes new friends, meets a wonderful teacher, and learns that she has the power of telekinesis.
The story here overall is a pretty faithful adaptation. What surprised me the most was how emotional this version of the story was. This version really relies on the relationships that Matilda makes with people. There is a librarian named Mrs. Phelps who Matilda visits every day to discuss and tell stories.
This version of Matilda has more to say when it comes to how she is feeling and how just because you may be little, it doesn’t mean you can’t make a big change.
The movie also gives us some surprises to change the story we may know. One character’s background is told in a very clever way that I did not expect.
Something that I feel will make some people upset is that the movie does lack the magic that Matilda is known for. Her powers are in the movie but unlike its predecessor, they are not the focal point. The movie is much more interested in telling a story about children who are trying to prevail. I actually found this to be welcoming because it gave the movie a more grounded tone. Obviously, the movie is fiction and there are plenty of extraordinary things that still happen, but by focusing on the relationships more it makes the audience relate more to the issues of the characters.
I have not previously seen the stage musical and I have not heard the songs before, so I was not aware of what I was walking into. In the beginning, I admit that I was worried because I wasn’t looking forward to hearing a bunch of eight-year-olds sing for 2 hours. I was pleasantly surprised with how the songs matched the tone of the film.
Not every single song is a hit in my opinion but there are definitely some highlights. “When I Grow Up” is a great song sung by the main cast of kids. They sing about how once they are older they would be allowed to do whatever they wanted. It is a song about still having hope in getting through this dark time because the future can be very sweet.
Another highlight is “My House” which is performed by Ms. Honey. It is a song that also goes with a flashback of Ms. Honey’s past. Everything was taken from her but she is still optimistic about what she owns and what she calls hers.
Newcomer Alisha Weir as Matilda is fantastic and someone to look out for. She commands such a presence and really conveys the right amount of sympathy for the role. I also have to give her credit for her dialogue. There is a lot of exposition here and she has to handle most of it and she does it perfectly.
Lashana Lynch who people may know from Captain Marvel plays Ms. Honey and gives a wonderful performance. She is also the best singer in the film and in every song she appears in, you cannot take your eyes off of her.
Emma Thompson as Ms. Trunchbull is 100% the standout for sure. She is giving it everything all throughout the film. This Trunchbull, while still over the top, definitely has a darker side to her as she truly doesn’t care whether the children under her care live or die. Credit to the makeup team as well as they manage to make Thompson unrecognizable.
Matilda the Musical is a fun and well-acted good time. It has some great songs and a lot of energy throughout. This version might not be above the 90’s one for some people, but in my opinion, it definitely can stand right next to it.