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Review of Roald Dahl’s Matilda: The Musical (2022)

Last December 25 – fum, fum, fum – Roald Dahl’s Matilda: The Musical arrived on Netflix; Matthew Warchus adapts the well-known novel by the master of children’s literature and does it in a musical key with the very young Alisha Weir in the title role and Emma Thomson as the evil Miss Trunchbull.

In 1996, the first adaptation of one of the last novels of Dahl; written in 1988 – barely a couple of years before her death – it told the story of young Matilda, an intelligent girl with telekinetic powers who tried to escape her parents’ tyrannical and rampant ignorance through books ; in love with Dickens literature, she entered a horrible educational institution, where she was going to meet a horrible headmistress who hated children and a kind teacher who would guide her on her way to adulthood. Directed by and co-starring Danny DeVito, with Rhea Perlman and Mara Wilson as the unforgettable Matilda.

26 years later we get a new adaptation, in this case adapting a Tony-winning musical that did the same with the novel. Flawless musical numbers lead the way in one more iconoclastic versioncynical and, at times, truly terrifying if we put ourselves in the mind of a 10-year-old boy.

Directed, as mentioned, Matthew Warchus; director with a big film like Pride behind him; with screenplay by Dennis Kelly and music by Tim Minchin. Different, at times even radically; where in the 90s we had lightness, here we have depth; something that is perceived in every staging decision and in strictly literary terms; there was complacency and paternalism, which is not presented in Dahl’s work. There is darkness, doubt and complicated emotions for a child; that’s why Matilda is a little classic, because it dialogues with him from you to you; and this, in the 2022 version, is more present than ever. It puts children in front of some fears that contemporary cinema does not alone; understand that Dahl made adult literature, for children. And that is this film, adult cinema, for children.

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