Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical review – a perfect feel-good musical for a cold winter night

By Lori Meek
Published: December 28, 2022 (Last updated: February 6, 2023)


A charming feature that does a great job of bringing the magic from the stage show onto the silver screen.

We review the Netflix film Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical, which does not contain spoilers.

Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book about a clever young girl with supernatural abilities was first adapted for the big screen in 1996, and later on, a stage musical with songs composed by Tim Minchin took both the West End and Broadway by storm. Due to the widespread success of the stage adaptation, a theatrical version was announced in 2013. However, before finally seeing the light of day in late 2022, Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical spent nearly a decade in development limbo.

The film originally premiered in October at the BFI London Film Festival, before a widespread theatrical release, followed by a U.S. Netflix release. Directed by Matthew Warchus and written by Dennis Kelly, the film features most of Minchin’s original songs, who even composed music exclusively for the feature. 

Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical review and plot summary

The film starts with a musical number chronicling the titular character’s very beginning. At the hospital, while other parents are overjoyed with their offspring, Mr. and Mrs. Woodworm (Stephen Graham & Andrea Riseborough) are beyond disappointed with their baby daughter. Years go by and the two grow into a pair of horribly neglectful parents to their daughter Matilda (played by Alisha Weir), a clever girl who loves to read at Mrs. Phelps’s (Sindhu Vee) mobile library. 

After getting in trouble for having forgotten to send Matilda to school, Mr. and Mrs. Woodworm enroll her in the school run by the tyrannical Miss Trunchbull (brought to life by the brilliant Emma Thompson), who enjoys torturing the children under her care. The class teacher, Miss Honey (Lashana Lynch), sees the spark of brilliance in Matilda, and the two form a growing bond while trying to survive in a school where students are considered “maggots.” Unlike in the book or the 1996 film starring Mara Wilson, this version includes a side story within the story about two circus artists who perform increasingly more dangerous stunts to take their minds off their lonely, childless existence. 

In many ways, Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical is a charming feature that does a great job of bringing the magic from the stage show onto the silver screen. The musical numbers are catchy and heartfelt. Alisha Weir took the role and made it her own, Lashana Lynch was fantastic as Miss Honey, and Emma Thompson stole the show every time she graced the screen with her very ungraceful character. I really enjoyed seeing Mrs. Phelps take on the moral guide role in Matilda’s life. The mobile library was also a unique idea.

While there’s plenty to love about the movie. I found this particular adaptation darker than previous iterations. Matilda is angrier, it touches on mature themes like infertility and while child abuse is heavily implied in other versions, this film shows just enough of it to give the viewer some discomfort. 

Is Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical good?

Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical is the perfect feel-good movie for a cold winter night. While a bit darker than the 1996 feature, the charming musical numbers more than make up for it. 

What did you think of the Netflix film Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical? Comment below.

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