(director: Matthew Warchus; screenwriters: based on the staged musical by Dennis Kelly & Tim Minchin/based on the book by Roald Dahl/Dennis Kelly; cinematographer: Tat Radcliffe; editor: Melanie Ann Oliver; music: Tim Minchin/Christopher Nightingale; cast: Alisha Weir (Matilda Wormwood), Emma Thompson (Agatha Trunchbull), Lashana Lynch (Miss Honey), Andrea Riseborough (Mrs. Wormwood), Stephen Graham (Mr. Wormwood), Matt Henry (Doctor), Carl Spencer (Escapologist), Lauren Alexander (Acrobat), Andrei Shin (Eric), Meesha Garbett (Hortensia), Charlie Hodson-Prior (Bruce Bogtrotter), Winter Jarrett Glasspool (Amanda Thripp), Sindhu Vee (Mrs. Phelps); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Tim Bevan/Eric Fellner/Jon Finn/Luke Kelly; Netflix; 2022)

There were many good musical numbers written by Tim Minchin.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Brit filmmaker Matthew Warchus (“Pride”/”Present Laughter”) in a cartoon-like way handsomely directs this award-winning RSC stage version of the 72-year-old Roald Dahl’s best selling novel that was turned into a stage musical by Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin and then a successful film by the same team. Warchus keeps it nuanced, dark humored and real enough to be as credible as possible.

It’s about the clever but lonely 13-year-old girl named Matilda (Alisha Weir, who made the film when she was 11), who is possessed with X-Men-like superpowers (of the telekinetic kind), but frightens her incompetent fearful nouveau-riche provincial parents (Andrea Riseborough & Stephen Graham) into bullying and ignoring her. She gets by being home schooled with the help of the kind-hearted librarian, Mrs. Phelps (Sindhu Vee), who takes her under her wing and encourages her to read her favorite authors, Brontë and Dostoevsky.                                                           

But her foolish parents are forced by the stupid authorities to ship her off to school, and the parents choose a terrible private school, Crunchem Hall, where she can’t fit in. It’s run by a draconian disciplinarian headmistress, Miss Trunchbull (an unrecognized in prosthetics Emma Thompson), a certifiable monster child hater and former Olympic hammer thrower (there’s a Soviet-styled granite statue of her in the courtyard throwing the hammer).

In her first school day, the older students serenade the bookish and free-spirited girl with a nutty song about what she can expect in such an unloving school. The song uses the alphabet in its lyrics:So you think you’re A-ble, / To survive this mess …” to “Just you wait for Phys-Z.

There’s also a sweet but frightened teacher on the faculty named Miss Honey (Lashana Lynch), who befriends Matilda and helps her grow. But when Matilda liberates this prison-like school from its ‘reign of terror,’ in a battle of wits with Trunchbull, the heavy secret Miss Honey carries with her is revealed.

There were many good musical numbers written by Tim Minchin, with my favorite being “When I Grow Up,” that has Matilda tells us the world can be both a cruel or beautiful place.

 It played at the London Film Festival.

REVIEWED ON 12/31/2022  GRADE: B+