Review of Netflix’ Matilda the Musical

I have a confession to make: I have never read a book by Roald Dahl.

But I did thoroughly enjoy the over-the-top fantasy musical version of Dahl’s Matilda. The songs were ridiculous and fun and heartfelt, the characters extreme, and – Emma Thompson as the sadistic headmistress is just… (chef’s kiss).

Could this glorious mess possibly reflect the children’s book? I mean, did someone named Roald Dahl write a story for children that walks a fine line between the popular British school genre and Stephen King’s Carrie?

Turns out, yeah. I looked up Dahl’s novel and, allowing for some artistic license in the transition from book to musical, it’s pretty close.

Alisha Weir delivers a fairly terrifying performance as the genius girl bent on revenge against all the bullies in her life. I am confident we will be seeing more of her.

Her character Matilda punches Nazis hard. When the bookmobile lady tells her; “Remember, two wrongs don’t make a right!” she responds, seriously, “Unless they do.” When she is alone, she sings to herself;

Just because you find that life’s not fair it
Doesn’t mean that you just have to grin and bear it
If you always take it on the chin and wear it
Nothing will change.

Even if you’re little, you can do a lot, you
Mustn’t let a little thing like, ‘little’ stop you
If you sit around and let them get on top, you
Might as well be saying
You think that it’s ok
And that’s not right!
And if it’s not right!
You have to put it right!


Miss Honey, the kind, caring, capable teacher, was charmingly played by singer Lashana Lynch. Here she is talking about how her portrayal was influenced by her favorite, real-life teacher:

And here she is just winning my heart…

“Even in the winter storm, I am warmed, by a small, but stubborn fire”

Pretty sure this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, not even if musically served in a lovely cup in a cozy shack. You’d have to like cinematic musicals, unhinged supernatural fantasies, and completely improbably indescribably happy tales of comeuppance.

Other notes:

  • I cannot imagine how they coordinated the singing and choreography of the children in the production but it’s a real spectacle.
  • The Bookmobile lady Mrs. Phelps advises Matilda: “The best way to handle a bully is to tell someone. Tell your parents. Tell the headmistress!” The musical makes clear, what the writers think of that formula.
  • I wonder what that imposing building was before it was used in the feature.
  • Movie nerds may recognize in the supernatural confrontation, an effect that was (I think) developed for the microbot scenes from Big Hero 6.