Matilda: the Musical: A Broadway to Film Adaptation for the Ages

The film poster in which Matilda is surrounded by the other main characters of the film.

Carina Astrid Carlson, Staff Writer

In November 2013, it was announced that there would be a film adaptation of the Tony-award-winning show, Matilda: the Musical, with original writer Dennis Kelly and director Matthew Warchus reprising their roles from the original musical. The film premiered at the BFI London Film Festival on October 5, 2022, and was officially released to eager audiences in the United Kingdom on November 25, 2022, and internationally on December 9, 2022. 

Matilda: the Musical tells the story of an extremely gifted young girl, Matilda Wormwood, and the struggles she must overcome in a family and at a school that doesn’t appreciate her talents. Alisha Weir, the actress who portrays Matilda in the film adaptation, does an excellent job in her role and accurately depicts Matilda’s attitude and emotions throughout the film. Another notable portrayal in the film is that of Lashana Lynch who plays the part of Ms. Honey, a teacher at Matilda’s school who recognizes her talents and vouches for her to Headmistress Trunchbull, played by Emma Thompson.

Emma Thompson’s depiction of the Trunchbull is decent, which may partially have to do with the fact that the Trunchbull is usually played by a male. However, Thompson’s portrayal of the Trunchbull could have done with a few fixes here and there. There were many times throughout the film that the Trunchbull could have been a bit more scary, as she is in the musical, and she could have been portrayed as a bit more manly rather than feminine. There were, of course, many pros of Thompson’s performance, including her incredibly strong execution of songs such as “The Smell of Rebellion” and “The Hammer”. She also does an outstanding job demonstrating that, while the Trunchbull is a mean, scary person, she is still human.

One key plot change from the original musical to the film is the difference in the Wormwood family dynamic. In the film, Matilda’s older brother, Michael, is no longer present in the show. While he didn’t add very much to the plot in the musical, he was an important character to contrast the way Matilda is treated by her parents to a child who is more “normal”. 

Songwriter for the musical and the movie, Tim Minchin, did an outstanding job composing the pieces for both adaptations and there are many intelligent parts of the songs that only the most eagle-eyed fan will notice. Minchin’s genius songwriting only adds to the excellent story of the show and the actors’ performances. 

To the dismay of many long-time fans of Matilda: the Musical, quite a few much-loved songs were cut from the movie to reduce run time and keep the plot on track. A fan favorite, Loud sung by Mrs. Wormwood, was cut along with the entire plot of her ballroom dancing career and her partner Rudolpho. Another popular song, Telly, sung by Mr. Wormwood, was also cut partially due to the fact that Michael is no longer a character in the show, but also due to the fact that the song did not add much to the soundtrack but comedic relief. One song was added to the film that was not in the original musical because songwriter, Tim Minchin, believed that a calmer song was needed to close out the film rather than ending on the note of “Revolting Children” as was done in the musical. One of the best songs of the film was “School Song” in Matilda and the other new schoolchildren are introduced to life at the school by returning students. The lyrics of the song are something only Minchin could be behind and the choreography is outstanding as well. The song “Revolting Children” is an excellent climax to the show with exceptional lyrics and choreography as well as incredible performances by all of the actors involved.

The film adaptation of Matilda: the Musical is definitely one for the ages with outstanding portrayals, songs, choreography and of course, a masterful plot. Rated by Rotten Tomatoes at a whopping 92%, it is an excellent film for all sorts of critics. It is currently streaming on Netflix and is the perfect film for families of all ages and interests.