Emma Thompson Wins Praise As Miss Trunchbull In First Matilda Reviews

The Oscar winner's take on Roald Dahl's classic villain has been hailed as a scene-stealer in this new musical.
Emma Thompson as Miss Trunchbull in the new film adaptation of Matilda
Emma Thompson as Miss Trunchbull in the new film adaptation of Matilda

The first reviews are in for the new big-screen adaptation of Matilda, following its premiere at London Film Festival on Wednesday night.

Based on Tim Minchin’s hit musical (itself a reimagining of Roald Dahl’s classic book, which was previously adapted for the screen in 1996), this new take on Matilda casts newcomer Alisha Weir in the lead role, while Dame Emma Thompson and Lashana Lynch portray the tyrannical Miss Trunchbull and adorable Miss Honey, respectively.

Early reviews of the film have heaped praise on the cast, with Oscar-winner Dame Emma being particularly singled out as a scene-stealer.

And even those which have called some more “problematic” aspects of the film into question – including its depiction of abuse towards children and the masculinisation of the villainous Miss Trunchbull compared to the more feminine Miss Honey – have still heaped praise on it in other areas.

Alisha Weir as Matilda
Alisha Weir as Matilda

Here’s a selection of what the critics have had to say so far…

The performances strike a delicate balance between comic broadness and cinematic subtlety. In this regard, Emma Thompson offers up a master class in threading the needle while still under a ton of uglifying latex (bringing back happy memories of her Nanny McPhee franchise).[...] Thompson even manages to inject a tiny sliver of humanity into the film’s chief villain, Miss Trunchbull.”

Without exception, the actors leap across the same bar. Everyone is turned up to a glorious eleven. Emma Thompson’s Miss Trunchbull [...] has more than a whiff of the Nazi camp commandant about her; even when she is screeching that she has a newt down her knickers, she is terrifying enough to send a satisfying shiver down the spine of the most ghoulish child in the audience.”

“While Thompson gets the lion’s share of show-stopping moments, every casting decision is shrewd. Lynch’s Miss Honey (who stands up for Matilda, and vice versa) is warmth and goodness personified, and Graham and Riseborough’s Mr and Mrs Wormwood are both uproarious nightmares [...] Like Dahl’s book, everything in this film, from tenderness to terror, is so exuberant.”

“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.”

“As might be expected from what is essentially a family musical, the film does not interrogate Dahl’s novel, despite the fact that there are grounds for questions [...] It’s a question of what we’re willing to put up with in order to appreciate the very best of his legacy – the trust he always had in his young audience’s intelligence, agency, and emotional maturity, and the liberating concept that parents don’t always know best.”

“This adaptation of the mega-successful West End show is brightly coloured – though full of darkness – exuberantly performed and inventively shot. Many adults will likely become a tad restless when Emma Thompson – as scary and batshit crazy headmistress Miss Trunchbull – is off screen. But for the under-12s, the movie offers one jolt of joy after another.”

“Thompson is entirely a scream, whether throwing herself into grand-scale slapstick or putting a snide, venomous spin on kid-targeted putdowns like, ‘He should have thought of that before he made a pact with Satan’.

“If that sounds less funny written down, Thompson’s eccentric physical and verbal tics provide the bulk of the laughs in an adaptation that goes light on Dahl’s more raucous humour.”

“This Matilda is not just a big movie about a little girl finding her voice, but about the need to speak up against injustice, wherever it’s found, and to find people who believe in you enough to lend their support. ‘If you always take it on the chin and wear it, nothing will change,’ Matilda notes; a compelling lesson in taking a stand which remains as relevant as ever.”

“Some of the nastiness is delicious. The signs around the school saying, ‘None of You Are Special’ and ‘You Are All Maggots’ raise a smile, as do Matilda’s lovably upbeat classmates. But it is extraordinary how melodramatic and sinister the film’s second half gets. Did it really need quite so much anger and cruelty, so much splattering mud and drenching rain, and so many shots of people in tearful despair?”

Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical will arrive in UK cinemas on 25 November 2022.


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