Matilda the Musical Movie Review: A fantastical reboot of a beloved classic
Director Matthew Warchus and composer Tim Minchins join forces to give us a flamboyant and fantastical adaptation of Matilda
Matilda (1996) is one of those rare cult children's films that work for people across generations. Based on Roald Dahl’s 1988 children's novel of the same name, the film managed to appeal to a wide range of children, and a wider range of adults who were happy to go down memory lane back to their good old days. In fact, in a recent watch of the classic, it was clear that Mara Wilson’s cuteness, Danny DeVito’s eccentricity, and Pam Ferris’ villainy which might even make Dolores Umbridge quiver in fear, still worked like magic. So one is forced to ask the big question when a reboot of sorts was announced. Why bother rebooting it when the original still is just as good? But after watching 120-odd minutes of Matilda the Musical, colour me impressed.
Cast: Alisha Weir, Lashana Lynch, Emma Thompson, Sindhu Vee
Director: Matthew Warchus
Streaming on: Netflix
Director Matthew Warchus and composer Tim Minchins join forces to give us a flamboyant and fantastical adaptation of Matilda. At some points, the musical might seem over the top when compared to the 1996 original, but it is clearly the plan. Only such extravagant theatrics have the legs to take the reboot the distance. Points to the makers for not assuming that all their audience members are aware of the world of Matilda. They take an extra minute or two to convincingly establish the world, and it helps in both acclimatising and reentering Crunchem Hall and meeting the inhabitants of the school that is ruled with an iron fist by Agatha Trunchbull.
While the shoes of Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman are too big, Stephen Graham and Andrea Riseborough are perfect as Matilda’s parents who don’t give her the time of day. We also have standup comedian and actor Sindhu Vee play the affable Mrs Phelps, and the brilliant Lashana Lynch be the much-loved teacher Mrs Honey. But the real challenge in the casting of Matilda the Musical was in getting the titular character and Trunchbull right, and the makers have hit the jackpot. As Matilda, Alisha Weir is equal parts curious, cunning, charming, and cherubic. She holds her weight opposite one of the most talented actors of this generation, Emma Thompson, who is almost unrecognisable but is menacing as Agatha Trunchbull. There is a very thin line between being a cartoonish villain and a caricature, and the veteran aces it.
The real strength of Matilda the Musical is its strong supporting cast, and the music. Matilda’s classmates are all such enthusiastic actors who effortlessly turn on the charm quotient of the film. And the real highlight of the film is of course the wonderful songs — School Song, Bruce, When I Grow Up, Revolting Children, You Were Still Holding My Hand — choreographed to animated perfection.
In recent times, we have seen many classics being rebooted for the internet generation, more often than not, forgetting what made the original a classic. Thankfully, Matilda the Musical manages to not just stand its own against the original but uses updated technology to give the present generation their own Matilda, and the previous generations a fancier and more musical walk down memory lane.