Matilda (1996 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Danny DeVito|
|Produced by||Danny DeVito
|Screenplay by||Nicholas Kazan
by Roald Dahl
|Narrated by||Danny DeVito|
|Music by||David Newman|
|Editing by||Lynzee Klingman
|Distributed by||TriStar Pictures|
|Running time||98 minutes|
Matilda is a 1996 American fantasy-comedy film directed by Danny DeVito. The screenplay by Nicholas Kazan and Robin Swicord is based on Roald Dahl's novel of the same name. The film was released by TriStar Pictures on August 2, 1996 and stars DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Embeth Davidtz, Pam Ferris, and Mara Wilson.
Matilda Wormwood is an intelligent girl with a bright personality, but her parents, Harry and Zinnia, neglect and mistreat her. When Matilda reaches four, she discovers the local library and walks there every day to read while her parents are at work and her older brother, Michael, is at school.
By age six, Matilda begins to lose patience with her parents. In retaliation for her father's teasing, she mixes his hair tonic with her mother's hair dye. Harry takes his family to his workshop, where he reveals that the cars he sells are faulty. Matilda accuses him of being dishonest and he belittles her, so she retaliates by putting super-glue in his hat, forcing Zinnia to cut it off. Harry belittles Matilda for reading while her family is watching television. When Harry tries to force her to watch with them, Matilda grows increasingly angry and the television suddenly explodes.
Agatha Trunchbull is the headmistress of a run-down school, Crunchem Hall. Harry enrolls Matilda in the school, where she befriends several children and learns of Miss Trunchbull's nature and her harsh punishments of the students. Matilda's teacher, Miss Jennifer Honey, is a kind woman who adores her pupils and takes an immediate liking to Matilda. Miss Honey speaks with Trunchbull and requests that Matilda be moved up to a higher class. Miss Honey pays Matilda's parents a visit and requests that they pay more attention to their daughter, but they refuse to listen. Meanwhile, Matilda discovers that her family is under FBI surveillance because of her father's shady dealings, but her parents refuse to believe her.
Sometime later, Trunchbull goes to Miss Honey's class for a weekly "check-up" and starts to belittle the students. As a prank, a student places a newt in Trunchbull's water jug to frighten her. Trunchbull accuses Matilda, whose anger at the injustice leads to her telekinetically tipping the glass over, splashing water on Trunchbull. Miss Honey invites Matilda to her house for tea. On the way, they pass Trunchbull's house, and Miss Honey reveals her secret: when she was two years old, her mother died, so her father invited his wife's stepsister, Trunchbull, to live with them and look after Miss Honey while he was at work. However, Trunchbull mistreated and abused her niece at every opportunity. When Miss Honey was five, her father died of an apparent suicide and left all of his assets to Trunchbull. Eventually, Miss Honey moved out of her aunt's house into a small cottage. Matilda and Miss Honey briefly sneak into Trunchbull's house while she is out, but her unexpected return leads to a cat-and-mouse chase with Matilda and Miss Honey only barely escaping.
When Matilda's telekinetic powers manifest again during an argument, she trains herself to use her ability at her own will. Matilda returns to Trunchbull's house, wreaking havoc in an attempt to scare Trunchbull away. Trunchbull almost flees, but she finds Matilda's ribbon and realizes that she was there. The next day, Trunchbull visits Miss Honey's class again to get Matilda to admit her guilt. Matilda uses her powers to write a message on the blackboard, posing as the ghost of Miss Honey's father and accusing Trunchbull of murdering him. Trunchbull attacks the students, but Matilda keeps them out of harm's way with her powers and the students force Trunchbull out of the school by pelting her with food and garbage. Miss Honey's father's true will is discovered by the police, which named Miss Honey as the sole beneficiary, so she moves back into her home, and Matilda is a frequent visitor.
The FBI finally uncovers enough evidence to prosecute Harry, and he and his wife and son prepare to flee. They stop by Miss Honey's house to pick up Matilda, but she refuses to go with them. Harry and Zinnia say that Matilda is their only daughter but they have never understood her, and they decide to let Miss Honey adopt her. The Wormwoods escape, while Matilda lives a happy life with Miss Honey.
- Danny DeVito as Harry Wormwood/Narrator
- Rhea Perlman as Zinnia Wormwood
- Embeth Davidtz as Miss Jennifer Honey
- Amanda and Kristyn Summers as Miss Jennifer Honey - 2 years
- Phoebe Pearl as Miss Jennifer Honey - 2 years
- Pam Ferris as Agatha Trunchbull
- Mara Wilson as Matilda Wormwood
- Alissa and Amanda Graham, Trevor and James Gallagher as Matilda - newborn
- Kayla and Kelsey Fredericks as Matilda - 9 months
- Amanda and Caitlin Fein as Matilda - toddler
- Sara Magdalin as Matilda - 4 years
- Brian Levinson as Michael Wormwood
- Nicholas Cox as Michael - 6 years
- Paul Reubens as FBI Agent Bob
- Tracey Walter as FBI Agent Bill
- Kiami Davael as Lavender Brown
- Jacqueline Steiger as Amanda Thripp
- Kira Spencer Hesser as Hortensia
- Jimmy Karz as Bruce Bogtrotter
- Jean Speegle Howard as Mrs. Phelps
- Marion Dugan as Cookie
- Emily Eby as Maggie
- Jon Lovitz as Mickey on The Million Dollar Sticky
Awards and nominations
- YoungStar Award
- Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Comedy Film — Mara Wilson
- Cinekid Lion Audience Award
- Best Director — Danny DeVito
- Oulu International Children's Film Festival Starboy Award
- Best Director — Danny DeVito
- Satellite Awards
- Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture — Comedy or Musical (Danny DeVito)
- Young Artist Award
- Best Performance in a Feature Film — Leading Young Actress (Mara Wilson)
- Best Performance in a Feature Film — Supporting Young Actress (Kira Spencer Hesser)
Two songs are featured in the film. One of them, "Send Me on My Way" by Rusted Root, is played twice: when the four-year-old Matilda is left alone at her house, making pancakes, and at the end of the film, set to a montage of Matilda and Miss Honey playing at Miss Trunchbull's former house. The other song is Thurston Harris's "Little Bitty Pretty One", played when Matilda is learning to control her psychokinetic powers.
The film's score was composed by David Newman.
Matilda received critical acclaim at the time of its release. On Rotten Tomatoes, it holds a "fresh" rating of 90%. In the United States, the film earned $33 million in contrast to its $36 million budget. It fared better during its worldwide release and ended up earning back nearly double its original budget. The film has continued to be a cult classic since its release.
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