London film festival: Story of superpowered schoolgirl gets a fresh, DayGlo take featuring lurid star turn from Emma Thompson Emma Thompson and Tim Minchin make a very tasty combination in this DayGlo movie musical for the London film festival’s opening gala – amusing, exhilarating and the tiniest bit exhausting. It’s based on the award-winning RSC stage version of Roald Dahl’s bestseller about Matilda, the clever, lonely little girl with secret X-Men-type superpowers, sent away to a horrible school run by a hideous disciplinarian called Miss Trunchbull, like a cross between a weapon and an attack dog. Emma Thompson plays the appalling Trunchbull in heavy prosthetics, a former Olympic hammer thrower who hates kids, with shoulders like the arms of a discount sofa. And of course, the musical marvel Tim Minchin weaves his spell with barnstorming music and lyrics, perhaps especially in the opening School Song, in which the older pupils introduce Matilda to the horrors in store, by way of the alphabet, starting with “So you think you’re A-ble, / To survive this mess …” to “Just you wait for Phys-Z”. The gleefully sly comedy kindred spirits of Thompson and Minchin come together to form the film’s bedrock of naughtiness.
Miss Trunchbull has a fantastically huge and grim Soviet-style granite statue of herself in the school’s front courtyard, wielding the hammer, adorned with the slogan: No Snivelling. It’s a rule she enforces when meting out corporal punishment, at one stage remarking: “The ears of small boys do not come off, they just stretch.” And, of course, her own hammer-throwing skills are dusted off when she has to throw a girl over the perimeter wall after grabbing her by the pigtails and whirling her round her head. “Still got it!” she gasps, smugly, as the unfortunate child lands with a crash in some distant bushes.
Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical review – all-singing, hall-dancing adaptation is by the book brilliance
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