Netflix’s new Matilda the Musical went a bit under-the-radar this past week on the platform, competing with the massive release of Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery and the Witcher spin-off Blood Origin. But don’t miss it — the adaptation of the West End and Broadway hit is one of the most fun movie musicals of the year, with two standout song-and-dance numbers that are among the best scenes of 2022 movies.
An adaptation of the Tony award-winning stage musical, Matilda the Musical brings back director Matthew Warchus, screenwriter Dennis Kelly, and songwriter Tim Minchin from that production. And the caliber of talent behind the camera shows: The fantastical drama retains the impressive choreography and fun songs of the stage production, while adding effects and moments that are only possible in cinema. Matilda has evocative production design filled with pops of color, and the kind of ostentatious costuming you’d expect from a Matilda project, along with incredible child performers and some of the best choreography you’ll see at the movies this year.
Earlier in December, the showstopping finale, “Revolting Children,” went mildly viral online, and for good reason: It’s a great display of the movie’s terrific choreography and of the skill of the young performers.
But I’m here to sing the praises of an earlier scene in the movie, one that shows off the deft song-writing and visual storytelling beyond the excellent choreography and performances: “School Song.”
The number starts on a stark statue of school headmistress Trunchbull, with the humorously dour message “No Snivelling,” before launching into a dramatic number warning Matilda and her new friend Lavender of the harshness of the school (and its overlord, played with the help of prosthetics by Emma Thompson). If it were just the showstopping lead bully performance from Meesha Garbett, or the incredible hand choreography with the school gate, that would be enough for a memorable number. But things escalate to another level in the second half of the song, as you realize the words have been following along the alphabet. That’s heightened with a series of clever visual gags to highlight each of the letters as they are said in the song, and makes the number even more enjoyable on future viewings.
Matilda the Musical is among the best Netflix movies, musical movies, and children’s movies this year. And if you found “School Song” half as fun as I did, you’re bound to have a great time.