Scattered Thoughts on Matilda the Musical Movie (2022)

We saw the movie adaptation of Matilda the Musical this past April at an advanced screening. Apparently, we were the first audience to see the film…which thrilled my kids. It seems like forever ago.

Even though I was a bookworm as a child, I never got into the Matilda book. For some reason, the characters and story didn’t resonate with me. I loved many of Roald Dahl’s other works, the Charlie Bucket/Willy Wonka books, James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Despite my lukewarm reaction to the story, the musical adaptation of Matilda that opened in London in 2012 piqued my interest and I bought the cast recording when it was released. Being a musical theater geek, I’ve always been interested in the latest shows. Except the songs didn’t appeal to me..nor did its Tony Award performance a year later when it landed on Broadway…so I didn’t see the show when the national tour arrived in Southern California,

Fast forward to this past spring… When the screening invitation arrived…I accepted it for my kids’ sake. Ashley was singing “When I Grow Up” from Matilda in her voice lessons, and Josh had enjoyed reading the book in second grade. They were really excited.

When we arrived for the screening, we went through a screening of our own. Each audience member was asked to sign a NDA in which we promised not to discuss the movie or disclose anything about it until after its theatrical release. To ensure we adhered to the agreement, organizers even Googled each person and made note of our social media accounts. Then we surrendered our cell phones for the duration of the movie and entered the theater.

I wanted to like the movie, but when it ended and the audience applauded, it saddened me that I hadn’t loved it as so many others in attendance clearly had. Thought it was extremely well-executed (dance numbers were sublime!) but still felt emotionally detached from the characters and story. As for the songs….didn’t feel strongly one way or another…didn’t exactly like them…but didn’t actively dislike them either.

I guess Matilda is just a story that will never click with me in any incarnation…no matter how much I wish it would.

Afterward we filled out the post-movie survey. I praised Alisha Weir’s performance in the title role, Lashana Lynch as Miss Honey, and the dancing. My chief criticism was that the film felt unnecessarily long (a case with most movies nowadays)…especially for a family film. My three children, Joey, and about 20 others were then asked to stay for an informal chat with the director. I wasn’t cool enough to be asked 🤣 so I wandered the mall until their session ended. 

When I reunited with my family an hour later, Joey said that the director seemed especially interested in hearing feedback from Ashley’s demographic. Not one to shy away from expressing her opinion, Ashley told the director she wished the movie showed Matilda practicing her physical powers. They just seemed to come out of nowhere without any explanation.

On the drive home, our family discussed the movie again. We were especially curious about what changes would be made before it made its debut in 8 months time.

When the movie finally hit Netflix on Christmas, Ashley was so excited to watch it. Right away, we noticed the movie was shorter….several scenes had been cut. A good decision. According to Ashley, a lengthy scene involving Matilda breaking into Trunchbull’s house and another scene with Miss Honey tidying up her classroom were cut. I don’t recall the film that well so I’ll take her word for it.

Ashley was also especially thrilled to see a new scene with…you guessed it…Matilda practicing her powers. Of course she’s taking full credit for this new addition,  🤣 and it was fun to see her light up with excitement at this new scene.

Spirited

Our Friday family movie was Spirited starring Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds. It’s a musical retelling of A Christmas Carol with songs by Pasek and Paul (Dear Evan Hansen, La La Land, The Greatest Showman). The boys checked out quite early into the movie…weren’t feeling it. Ashley stuck around though and really enjoyed it. I can’t say the songs were that memorable. Ferrell had a big number that sounded like it could’ve been interesting but he’s not much of a singer and I kept wondering what the song might’ve been with better vocals. Like most movies nowadays, the movie was about 25 minutes too long and could’ve used trimming.