Roald Dahl’s Matilda: The Musical (2022) Review

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Roald Dahl’s Matilda: The Musical: A Comparison to its Predecessor

An Introduction to Roald Dahl’s Matilda

Roald Dahl’s Matilda, a beloved classic, has captivated readers for generations. This enchanting tale follows the life of Matilda Wormwood, a young girl with neglectful and anti-intellectual parents. Left to her own devices, Matilda takes solace in books, immersing herself in the worlds created by the greatest writers of the English canon. However, when the authorities intervene and Matilda’s father is forced to find her a school, she discovers Crunchem Hall, an imposing institution ruled by the tyrannical headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. Amidst adversity, Matilda forms a bond with her compassionate teacher, Miss Honey, as they navigate their way through challenges and empower each other. Matilda also discovers a hidden superpower that she uses to outwit her headteacher.

Danny DeVito’s Interpretation: A Family Film Classic

Danny DeVito’s 1996 screen adaptation of Matilda remains a beloved family film, praised for its ability to empower children and avoid infantilization. DeVito’s Americanized version provided a fresh take on Dahl’s story, appealing to a wide audience. In particular, DeVito skillfully centered Matilda’s perspective, presenting the adults as seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The film’s climactic scene, where Matilda uses her psychic powers to haunt Miss Trunchbull, elicits genuine terror through the combination of Pam Ferris’s chilling performance, intense close-ups, a compelling musical score, and quick cuts. DeVito’s interpretation successfully captures the spirit of Dahl’s writing.

Roald Dahl’s Matilda: The Musical on Screen

Roald Dahl’s Matilda: The Musical, adapted from Tim Minchin’s successful stage production, is the latest screen adaptation of this timeless story. While it boasts delightful musical sequences, it falls short in embodying Dahl’s signature menace and flair. Unlike its predecessor, this version features a predominantly British cast, grounding the story in its original roots. The refined production design and Netflix’s distinct visual style add a new aesthetic to the film. However, the adaptation lacks the intensity and cinematic impact of DeVito’s interpretation.

Weaknesses of Roald Dahl’s Matilda: The Musical

One notable weakness of Matilda: The Musical lies in its subdued and forgettable approach to key scenes. The once-terrifying chalkboard scene, where Matilda uses her powers to communicate with Miss Trunchbull from a distance, loses its impact and becomes a mere box-ticking exercise. Additionally, the portrayal of the adults in this adaptation, including Miss Trunchbull, veers towards pantomime villains rather than nuanced characters. The CGI weightlessness of Amanda Thripp being thrown by her pigtails further detracts from the satisfaction of the scene. Missing opportunities to flesh out Matilda’s classmates also diminishes the overall character development in the film.

Strong Performances and Engaging Musical Sequences

Despite its shortcomings, Matilda: The Musical boasts commendable performances that keep the audience engaged. Alisha Weir shines in her role as Matilda, embodying the strength and determination of the character. Lashana Lynch delivers a captivating portrayal of Miss Honey, showcasing both gentleness and a slow-growing assertiveness. Stephen Graham brings a delightful energy to the character of Mr. Wormwood. However, Emma Thompson’s portrayal of Miss Trunchbull falls short of the character’s inherent menace due to script limitations and overreliance on CGI set pieces.

Undoubtedly, the film’s musical sequences stand out as the highlights of the adaptation. Director Matthew Warchus, known for his work in the theatre, displays his expertise in directing these mesmerizing scenes. The choreography and editing elevate the songs, ensuring they become memorable. The attention to detail and the visual appeal of these sequences make them the most compelling aspect of the film.

The Impact of the Songs and Themes of Empowerment

One aspect in which Matilda: The Musical excels is in its captivating songs. The charming and witty lyrics, coupled with the cast’s flair, create an anthem-like quality that resonates with the themes of empowerment central to the story. Audiences, including school classes, find joy in these musical moments, enhancing their overall viewing experience. It is worth noting that the film successfully brings attention to Miss Trunchbull’s character, exploring into her tragic past and providing a nuanced depiction beyond pure villainy.

A Sanitized Adaptation with Some Missed Opportunities

Despite the film’s entertainment value, it falls short of its predecessor and fails to leave a lasting impression. Roald Dahl’s Matilda: The Musical, while enjoyable, lacks the raw storytelling choices that made DeVito’s version so compelling. The runtime of nearly two hours may appear daunting, but the film is well-paced, ensuring it never drags. The energetic camerawork and snappy editing contribute to the film’s kinetic vibe. However, the limited screentime given to Miss Honey and the oversight in developing a strong dynamic between her and Matilda leave room for improvement.

Conclusion: An Enjoyable but Forgettable Adaptation

In conclusion, Roald Dahl’s Matilda: The Musical is an enjoyable film with delightful musical sequences. While it may not match the brilliance of its predecessor, it shines in its own right. It falls short in capturing Dahl’s original spirit, but its well-rounded performances and engaging musical numbers make it undeniably entertaining. Matilda: The Musical may not be heralded as a timeless classic, but it is certainly worth a watch.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Is Roald Dahl’s Matilda: The Musical a faithful adaptation of the original book?

Answer: While Roald Dahl’s Matilda: The Musical offers its own interpretation of the beloved story, it deviates in some aspects from the original book. However, it still captures the essence of Matilda’s journey and empowerment.

2. How does the musical adaptation compare to Danny DeVito’s 1996 film?

Answer: Roald Dahl’s Matilda: The Musical presents a different take on the story compared to Danny DeVito’s film. While both have their strengths, DeVito’s version is often praised for its ability to capture the menacing atmosphere of Dahl’s writing.

3. Are the musical sequences the highlight of Roald Dahl’s Matilda: The Musical?

Answer: Yes, the musical sequences shine in Matilda: The Musical, with captivating performances and well-choreographed scenes that elevate the storytelling.

4. Does Roald Dahl’s Matilda: The Musical bring attention to Miss Trunchbull’s character?

Answer: Yes, the film delves into Miss Trunchbull’s past and provides a deeper understanding of her character, highlighting her complex motivations and adding depth to her portrayal.

5. Is Roald Dahl’s Matilda: The Musical a must-watch for fans of the book or previous adaptations?

Answer: While the film delivers an enjoyable experience, it may not reach the same level of acclaim as its predecessors. However, for fans of the book or previous adaptations, it still offers a fresh take on Matilda’s story and is worth watching.