Review | ‘Matilda’ dances exuberantly onto the screen and into your heart



(3.5 stars)

Behold a Broadway musical that sings, dances and bedazzles so magnetically, it feels as if it had been ordained for the display by divine windfall. “Roald Dahl’s Matilda: The Musical” definitely is divine, however the inspirational figures are all mortal: a director, Matthew Warchus; a star, Emma Thompson; and a solid of perpetually whirling youngster wonders who propel the story ahead with kinetic enchantment.

“Matilda” was first a Dahl novel, then a 1996 film, then a 2013 Broadway musical and now a movie musical. Audiences have seen numerous instances how this development can devolve from one incarnation to the subsequent, as if a property had been topic to imaginative biodegrading. On this occasion, the alternative pertains: “Matilda,” in choose theaters now and streaming on Netflix starting Christmas Day, explodes with an exhilarating pleasure in filmic transformation, in harnessing the energy of 1 medium and regenerating it freshly in one other.

The film reassembles key members of the stage model’s artistic workforce, together with e-book author (now screenwriter) Dennis Kelly and composer Tim Minchin, underneath the steering as soon as once more of Warchus, a Broadway and West Finish veteran. Their cinematic take is by some magnitude much more devoted to Dahl’s darkish imaginative and prescient of childhood terrors, because it unfolds a harsher depiction of the plight of Matilda (the astonishing Alisha Weir). And it counts much more pointedly than the stage adaptation did on our reflexive sympathy for kids subjected to the dictatorial whims of merciless adults.

On the coronary heart of all of it is Thompson as heartless Agatha Trunchbull, authoritarian headmistress of Crunchem Corridor, a main faculty over which she presides with Olympian contempt for terrorized pupils she calls “maggots.” Thompson is a lover of elaborate dress-up — recall, please, “Nanny McPhee” — and right here she’s bulked up and uniformed like a totalitarian despot. Hers is a megalomaniacal tour de pressure that reaches its climax within the extraordinary “The Scent of Riot,” a musical rampage on a muddy impediment course that passes for a grueling phys ed class.

Ellen Kane is the choreographer for this and different outstanding manufacturing numbers — she was Peter Darling’s choreography affiliate for Broadway — that have you ever marveling at what will be achieved with a legion of nimble tweeners. Consider “Oliver!” with 10 instances the combustion. In songs such because the welcome-to-hell “Faculty Tune” and “Bruce,” recounting a penitential cake-eating problem, the ensemble dances by the hallways and meeting rooms with dizzying élan.

“Matilda’s” tenet is that adults might take pleasure in self-satisfying fantasies about their little darlings: “My mommy says I’m a miracle,” sings the opening quantity, as cinematographer Tat Radcliffe pans over cute newborns of their cribs. However as soon as they’re sufficiently old for college — properly, perhaps that’s when mothers and dads needs to be paying nearer consideration. Crunchem Corridor is “Nicholas Nickleby’s” Dotheboys Corridor with an additional soupcon of sadism. (Though Miss Trunchbull inflicts bodily punishment that magically leads to no lasting hurt, I’d say the film is just not for kids who can’t but distinguish between actual and fake.)

Versus J.Ok. Rowling’s Hogwarts, Crunchem Corridor is a perverse sendup of the brutalities of the British faculty system. Matilda Wormwood’s dwelling life is simply as terrible, as it’s presided over by cartoonishly self-centered dad and mom (performed expertly by Stephen Graham and Andrea Riseborough) who’re oblivious to what’s obvious to the remainder of us: that Matilda is a wondrous youngster with supernatural items and mind energy to spare. That’s left to be found by the story’s most benevolent character: Matilda’s schoolteacher Miss Honey, embodied with heart-melting wholesomeness by Lashana Lynch.

The Wormwoods have been stripped within the movie model of most of their singing tasks — there was no approach, apparently, to make one of many musical’s funniest songs, Mr. Wormwood’s audience-participation “Telly,” work for the display, and Matilda’s brother Michael has been minimize out completely. Younger Weir’s luminous presence greater than compensates for something that has been subtracted. Her endearing Matilda is equal components dreamer and insurgent, attributes documented brightly within the Necco-Wafer-colored world conjured by manufacturing designers David Hindle and Christian Huband.

The opposite besieged kids gallivant simply as vivaciously, amongst them Charlie Hodson-Prior as Bruce, Winter Jarrett-Glasspool as Amanda and Rei Yamauchi Fulker as Lavender. When a present opens up so buoyantly for the cameras, it’s most positively a contented vacation.

PG. Accessible Dec. 25 on Netflix. Incorporates mature thematic parts, exaggerated bullying and a few robust language. 116 minutes.

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