Good Luck

March 24th, 2023

matilda the musical spotlightMiss Trunchbull (Emma Thompson) yells at Matilda (Alisha Weir) and her classmates in a scene from Netflix’s “Matilda: The Musical.” Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


The week of Christmas saw several releases on Netflix and other streaming services and with last weekend being free for me due to being the New Year’s holiday, I decided to take in a few of them, including the movie adaptation of “Matilda: The Musical,” which officially dropped Christmas day. 

For those who are unaware, the musical is based on the Roald Dahl 1988 novel and follows Matilda Wormwood, a young girl with the gift of telekinesis who loves reading, overcomes obstacles caused by her family and school’s bullying headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, and helps her teacher, Miss Honey, reclaim her life. Having never seen the musical (though I am aware of its existence), I went into this adaptation rather blind, which ultimately ended up being beneficial. 

To start off, the talent they got for this musical adaptation was chosen VERY well.  Alisha Weir leads the cast as the titular young heroine and even at her age, she’s got talent in spades and I foresee a very bright future for her. She’s able to showcase all of Matilda’s emotions so very well and her big blue eyes can turn from soft to bordering on angry/passionate almost instantly, and she showcases that particularly when she’s telling her side story of the Escapologist and the Acrobat. Weir’s singing is also very good and I think she would do very well in the musical theatre world if she keeps with it, with my favorite song of her’s being Matilda’s signature tune, “Naughty.” Emma Thompson also did a fantastic job as Matilda’s ruthless (and quite frankly, rather sadistic) headmistress, Miss Trunchbull and there were multiple times throughout the movie when even I was scared of what she was going to do next, and not without good reason. Thompson strikes a good balance and is able to keep Miss Trunchbull a villain without necessarily making the character a caricature, and she brings that energy toward her musical numbers as well. I also have to applaud whoever was in charge of Thompson’s makeup because they did an AMAZING job and if I hadn’t already known she was in the movie, I legitimately might not have initially recognized her. 

Keeping with the casting praise, Lashana Lynch does a wonderful job as Matilda’s teacher Miss Honey and makes her so kind and sweet toward her students, and it’s pretty evident she’s a representation of the teachers who actually care about education. Her singing is also quite lovely and while I can’t say she’d sell out Broadway, she does a good job with her handful of singing moments throughout the movie. I also really liked Sindhu Vee as Mrs. Phelps, Matilda’s librarian friend, who kind of reminded me of the bookseller from “Beauty & the Beast” and was one of the rare characters who doesn’t mind Matilda being around, and she’s got some good moments of her own in encouraging Matilda to find her own inner strength. The young members of the rest of the ensemble were also extremely talented (particularly Charlie Hodson-Prior as Matilda’s classmate Bruce Bogtrotter) and it was so much fun watching them as the movie went on. If there’s one casting gripe I have, it’s with Matilda’s parents – it’s not a case where the actors did a bad job, but rather a feeling they weren’t really used as much as they should have been. They’re a big catalyst to Matilda developing/discovering her powers, but this adaptation puts them way more in the background than they should have been. If there’s another minor gripe I have with the movie, it’s how they also put Matilda’s powers rather in the background until rather late in the movie, which I don’t entirely understand because it’s such an important plot point and responsible for driving a lot of the story forward.

Something else that really stood out to me with the movie was the choreography for the musical numbers throughout. Everything was sharp and precise but still a lot of fun to watch, and I would have to say my overall favorite number in that regard was the movie’s penultimate song, “Revolting Children,” because there’s just so much energy involved, and quite frankly, the song itself is actually pretty catchy. I can’t even begin to imagine how much time and energy it took for the children in the cast to learn everything, and my hat absolutely goes off to them for being way more talented dancers than I could ever hope to be. While the choreography for the songs was good, I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about the music as a whole, because there are some songs I found to be catchy and rather brilliant, but there are also some of the songs I found rather cloying and couldn’t help but think “THAT made it onto a Broadway stage?”

I also really appreciated the movie’s overall positive message about embracing one’s inner power and strength – it’s a message a lot of younger people need to hear nowadays, and I really appreciated how the movie helped that come across. There’s also an underlying message about not letting obstacles stand in your way and again, that’s something a lot of younger people need to hear in more modern times. 

Overall, I very much enjoyed Netflix’s adaptation of “Matilda: The Musical” and would give it a solid “A” grade. The cast does a great job, particularly leading ladies Alisha Weir in the title role and Emma Thompson as Miss Trunchbull, and the rest of the young ensemble is fantastic as well. The choreography for the musical numbers throughout is also done really well (particularly “Revolting Children”), though I can’t fully say the same for the actual songs. I also appreciated the positive messages throughout and how they came across. Overall, if you’re a fan of musicals, there’s a chance you’ll enjoy “Matilda: The Musical,” now streaming on Netflix.