Matilda

Matilda Title

Matilda (1996)

Matilda is a family comedy film directed by Danny DeVito that stars Mara Wilson, Embeth Davidtz, and Pam Ferris.

This fantasy film follows a young genius who uses telekinesis to battle Agatha Trunchbull, the abusive principal of her Elementary School.

Matilda Reading Again

The Story (SPOILERS)

The film opens with a newborn being brought home in the trunk of a car.

The young girl, named Matilda, displays incredible intellect.

She develops independence quickly due to her being left at home alone every weekday.

Matilda Toddler

Her father goes to work, her mother plays bingo, and her brother Michael is at school.

To pass the time, Matilda goes to the public library to read books.

Matilda Reading

At age six, Matilda becomes upset with her parents. She vehemently wants to go to school, but her parents refuse and mock her desire.

In retaliation, she starts to punish her parents.

Matilda Parents

She dyes her father’s hair blonde and glues his hat to his head. After a comedic lunch, Matilda gets angry with him for ripping up one of her library books.

She stares at the screen and causes the television to violently explode.

They finally allow her go to school after her father meets a client named Agatha Trunchbull.

Matilda Miss Trunchbull

She is a vicious principal of a elementary school named Crunchem Hall.

Matilda befriends several children at school and learns of Miss Trunchbull’s sadistic nature.

Matilda School

Matilda’s teacher, Jennifer Honey, is a kind woman who discovers Matilda’s genius intellect.

Jennifer requests to Miss Trunchbull that she be moved to a higher grade, but Miss Trunchbull refuses.

Matilda soon discovers that her family is under surveillance by FBI agents because of her father’s illegal auto shop.

Matilda Auto Shop

The next day, a newt in placed in Miss Trunchbull’s water jug.

Miss Trunchbull accuses Matilda, whose anger telekinetically tips the glass over onto Miss Trunchbull.

Matilda Classroom

Afterward, Miss Honey invites Matilda to her house for tea. Miss Honey explains that her father, Magnus, invited his stepsister-in-law, Miss Trunchbull, to live with them and look after her.

When Miss Honey was five, her father died of “suicide” and that she was regularly abused afterward.

Matilda Miss Honey

As she trains herself to use her powers, she decides to cause havoc at Miss Trunchbull’s house to scare her away. Miss Trunchbull finds her red hair ribbon, immediately suspecting her.

The next morning, Miss Trunchbull visits Miss Honey’s class to get Matilda to admit her guilt. In retaliation, she writes on the blackboard with her powers, accusing Trunchbull of murdering Magnus.

Miss Trunchbull goes absolutely nuts and attacks the students. Matilda uses her powers to help rally the students to force her away.

Matilda Adoption

The Wormwoods try to flee to Guam to avoid the FBI. They sign adoption papers allowing Matilda to live happily with Miss Honey.

Miss Honey moves back into her father’s home and starts running the school. The film ends with a nice montage of the new family.

 

Analysis/Review

This is a great film. While odd and slightly juvenile (the carrot scene), there is enough charm and wit to make it stand out.

Most of the actors look to be having a great time, every performance stands out, and few films can make child actors compelling protagonists.

Mara Wilson’s portrayal is believable and her personality/stature compared to Miss Trunchbull is enough to make anyone nervous.

Danny DeVito (still can’t believe he directs this) is a strong narrator and is often hilarious on screen. Him and his wife, Rhea Perlman, do a fantastic job as Matilda’s parents.

If you’re looking for a goofy film that actually holds a powerful message, this one is not to be missed.

 

P.S. I also highly recommend the musical adaption by Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin. The heart, comedy, and message has strong pulls toward the original novel. Most of the songs are moving, memorable, and brilliantly executed. Please check it out if you get a chance.

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