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|
|Edited by||Lynzee Klingman
|Distributed by||TriStar Pictures|
|Running time||98 minutes|
|Box office||$33,098,222 
(in the U.S.)
Matilda is a 1996 American fantasy comedy children's film directed and narrated 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 Mara Wilson, Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Embeth Davidtz, and Pam Ferris.
Matilda Wormwood (Mara Wilson) is an intelligent girl with a bright personality, but her parents, Harry and Zinnia (Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman), 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. Matilda checks out several age inappropriate books such as Catcher in the Rye and Mein Kampf.
By age six-and-a-half, Matilda begins to lose patience with her parents. In retaliation for her father's constant lecturing, she mixes his hair tonic with her mother's hair dye, which turns his hair an unhealthy blonde. Harry takes his kids to his workshop, where he reveals that the cars he sells are faulty and that he turns back the speedometers. Matilda accuses him of being dishonest, which makes him belittle her, so she retaliates by putting super-super-glue in his hat, forcing Zinnia to cut it off. Matilda reads a borrowed library book, Moby Dick; Harry then tears out the pages, calling it filth because he misunderstands the title, while the rest of the 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 (Pam Ferris) is the headmistress of a run-down school, Crunchem Hall who buys a car from Harry's retailer. Harry enrolls Matilda there, 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 (Embeth Davidtz), is a kind woman who adores her pupils and takes an immediate liking to Matilda. Miss Honey speaks with Miss Trunchbull and requests that Matilda be moved up to a higher class, but Trunchbull refuses. Miss Honey pays Matilda's parents a visit and requests that they pay more attention to her, but they refuse to listen. Next Day, Bruce Bogtrotter is forced to eat a chocolate cake in front of everyone (as punishment for eating Miss Trunchbull's slice) and Miss Trunchbull, now annoyed by the children's chanting, keeps everyone for five hours after school. Meanwhile, Matilda discovers that her family is under surveillance by FBI agents (Paul Reubens and Tracey Walter) because of her father's illegal dealings, but her parents refuse to believe her.
Some time later, Miss Trunchbull locks Matilda in the chokey (due to the faulty car she bought from Harry earlier), goes to Miss Honey's class for a weekly "check-up", and starts to berate the students. Miss Honey rescues Matilda and as a prank, Lavender (one of Matilda's friends) places a newt in Miss Trunchbull's water jug to frighten her. She accuses Matilda, whose anger at the injustice leads to her telekinetically tipping the glass over and splashing water on Miss Trunchbull. Miss Honey invites Matilda to her house for tea. On the way, they pass Miss Trunchbull's house, and Miss Honey reveals her secret; when she was two years old, her mother died from breast cancer, so her father invited his wife's stepsister, Miss Trunchbull, to live with them and look after Miss Honey. However, Miss Trunchbull mistreated and abused her niece at every opportunity. When Miss Honey was five, her father died of an apparent suicide when he sacrificed his life. Eventually, Miss Honey moved out of her aunt's house and into a small cottage. Matilda and Miss Honey briefly sneak into Miss Trunchbull's house while she is out, but her unexpected return (after the car breaks down) leads to a cat-and-mouse chase with Matilda and Miss Honey only barely escaping.
When Matilda's unusual telekinetic powers manifest again during an argument between Harry and Zinnia, she trains herself to use her ability at her own will. After foiling the FBI Agents' attempts to prosecute Harry, Matilda returns to Miss Trunchbull's house, wreaking havoc in an attempt to scare her away, by repeatedly striking her clock, opening the windows, turning the lights on and off, sending Trunchbull's portrait to the fireplace, and replacing it with the portrait of Miss Honey's Father Magnus. Trunchbull almost flees, but she finds Matilda's ribbon and realizes that she was there. The next day, Miss 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 Magnus and accusing her of murdering him. Miss Trunchbull attacks the students, but Matilda keeps them out of harm's way with her powers and the students force Miss Trunchbull out of the school. Miss Honey moves back into her father's house.
The FBI finally uncovers enough evidence to prosecute Harry, and he and his family prepare to flee to Guam. They stop by Miss Honey's house to pick up Matilda, but she refuses to go with them. Harry and Zinnia decide to let Miss Honey adopt her. The Wormwoods escape, while Matilda lives a happy life with Miss Honey, who, in addition to her teaching duties, also becomes the school's new principal.
- Mara Wilson as Matilda Wormwood the main protagonist.
- 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
- Danny DeVito as Harry Wormwood Matilda's father
- Rhea Perlman as Zinnia Wormwood Matilda's mother
- Embeth Davidtz as Miss Jennifer Honey,Matilda's class teacher and the niece of Ms. Trunchbull.
- Amanda and Kristyn Summers as Miss Jennifer Honey - 2 years
- Phoebe Pearl as Miss Jennifer Honey - 5 years
- Pam Ferris as Agatha Trunchbull as the principal of school Matilda attends and the main antagonist.
- 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
- 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
- Craig Lamar Traylor as Child in Classroom
- 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)
The film was submitted for an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Musical or Comedy Score, but wasn't nominated.
Three songs are featured in the movie. 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 original 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 as well as on home video and television.
Home media release
In 2013 Mara Wilson and her former co-stars from "Matilda" had a reunion to celebrate the movie's 17th anniversary and "Matilda" being released on Blu-ray. The reunion scene was featured in the Blu-ray of "Matilda".
- "MATILDA (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. August 14, 1996. Retrieved July 24, 2013.
- Matilda (1996) - Box office / business
- Matilda at Box Office Mojo
- Matilda - Rotten Tomatoes
- Matilda reunion: Former child star Mara Wilson catches up with Danny DeVito and Embeth Davidtz
- Mara Wilson On Matilda Reunion: It Was Just Heartwarming
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- Matilda at the Internet Movie Database
- Matilda at Box Office Mojo
- Matilda at Rotten Tomatoes
- Movie stills