Matilda (1996 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Danny DeVito|
by Roald Dahl
|Narrated by||Danny DeVito|
|Music by||David Newman|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Releasing|
|Box office||$33.5 million|
Matilda is a 1996 American fantasy comedy film co-produced and directed by Danny DeVito, from a screenplay written by Nicholas Kazan and Robin Swicord. Based on Roald Dahl's 1988 novel of the same name, the film stars Mara Wilson as the title character with DeVito (who also served a dual role as the narrator), Rhea Perlman, Embeth Davidtz and Pam Ferris in supporting roles. The film centers on a young genius girl named Matilda Wormwood, who develops psychokinetic abilities and uses them to deal with her disreputable family and Agatha Trunchbull, the ruthless, oppressive and tyrannical principal of Crunchem Hall Elementary School. Produced by DeVito's Jersey Films and released theatrically in the United States on August 2, 1996 by Sony Pictures Releasing through TriStar Pictures label. Critics praised DeVito's direction and faithfulness to the spirit of the source material. The film grossed $33.5 million in the United States on a $36 million budget.
Young genius Matilda Wormwood is regularly neglected and mistreated by her parents, Harry and Zinnia, and her older brother, Michael. She is smart, independent and frequently goes to the public library where she finds solace in the fictional worlds found in the books. When Matilda's parents refuse to enroll her into school, she retaliates against them, first by adding hydrogen peroxide bleaching agent to her father's hair tonic and then by gluing his hat to his head. When Harry rips up the library's copy of Moby-Dick (which he finds offensive because of the title) and forces Matilda to watch television instead, Matilda becomes increasingly enraged until the television explodes.
One of Harry's car dealership customers is Miss Agatha Trunchbull, the tyrannical principal of Crunchem Hall Elementary School. Harry sells her a car in exchange for her admitting Matilda as a pupil. At school, Matilda makes friends but discovers Trunchbull's harsh punishments of the students, while Matilda's teacher, Miss Jennifer Honey, takes a liking to Matilda due to her intelligence; Honey requests Matilda be moved up to a higher class, but Trunchbull refuses. Miss Honey tells the Wormwoods about Matilda's genius-level intellect, but they ignore her while Matilda discovers that her father is under surveillance by two undercover FBI agents because of his illegal dealings. Her parents refuse to believe her as they assume that the agents are speedboat salesmen as Zinnia flirts with them.
As a prank, Lavender, one of Matilda's friends, puts a newt in Trunchbull's water jug to scare her. Trunchbull accuses Matilda, whose anger at the injustice leads her to telekinetically tip the glass over, splashing the newt onto Trunchbull. However, Matilda is then unable to display her powers to Honey during a test run. Honey remarks that often one's confidence in themselves leads them to prove it to others, only to have them mess up. Honey invites Matilda over to her house for tea and reveals a secret: when she was two, her mother died from her circus accident injuries, and her father, a doctor, invited his wife’s stepsister (sister in the novel), Miss Trunchbull, to live with them and look after her, but Trunchbull abused her; when Honey was five, her father died of an alleged suicide and left everything to Trunchbull. Ms. Trunchbull actually killed Ms. Honey's father and made it appear like suicide. When Matilda and Honey sneak inside Trunchbull's house to obtain some of the latter's belongings, Trunchbull's sudden return prompts the duo to barely escape without getting caught.
Matilda trains her telekinetic power by making objects fly around the house and thwarting the FBI agents in order to buy Harry time to come to his senses. Having practiced her ability, she returns to Trunchbull's house in an attempt to scare her away with telekinesis, but Trunchbull discovers Matilda's presence upon finding her hair ribbon. The next day, Matilda reveals her powers to Honey but Trunchbull visits the class to make Matilda confess. Matilda magically writes a message on the blackboard, pretending to be the vengeful soul of Miss Honey's deceased father, Magnus, who accuses Trunchbull of murdering him. Trunchbull attacks the students, but Matilda keeps them safe and she and the other students force her out of the school for good, and Honey moves back into her true home.
Sometime later, the Wormwoods show up at Honey's house to pick up Matilda and flee to Guam while planning to beat the "speedboat salesmen" to the airport. Matilda refuses to go with them and says she would rather be adopted by Honey. Zinnia and Harry both sign Matilda's adoption papers, with Zinnia feeling remorseful for never understanding her daughter. Matilda lives happily with Honey, who then becomes the new principal of Crunchem Hall.
- Mara Wilson as Matilda Wormwood, a young intelligent 6-year-old girl whose powers can make anything possible.
- Alissa / Amanda Graham / James Gallagher as Newborn Matilda
- Kayla and Kelsey Fredericks as 9-month-old Matilda
- Amanda Fein as 2-year-old Matilda
- Sara Magdalin as 4-year-old Matilda
- Danny DeVito as Harry Wormwood, a grumpy, hateful and abusive crooked car salesman who is Matilda and Michael's father, when he told her it was time to start acting like one.
- DeVito also narrated the film.
- Rhea Perlman as Zinnia Wormwood, Harry's wife who is Matilda and Michael's mother that is a cheery and Bingo-obsessed parent.
- Embeth Davidtz as Miss Jennifer Honey, the kind and devoted teacher at Crunchem Hall who gave Matilda the inspiration to believe in the power of what's inside.
- Amanda and Kristyn Summers as 2-year-old Miss Jennifer Honey
- Phoebe Pearl as 5-year-old Miss Jennifer Honey
- Pam Ferris as Miss Agatha Trunchbull, the cruel and selfish principal at Crunchem Hall and Jennifer Honey's aunt, she was a former Olympian athlete who hurt the children when she uses Shotput, Hammer throw, & javelin, when putting them in the Chokey.
- Paul Reubens and Tracey Walter as Bob and Bill, two FBI agents posing as speedboat salesmen who are investigating Harry due to his illegal car business.
- Brian Levinson as Michael Wormwood, Harry and Zinnia's bratty son and Matilda's older brother who bullies her and calls her "dip-face".
- Nicholas Cox as 6-year-old Michael
- Kiami Davael as Lavender, Matilda's best friend and fellow classmate.
- Jacqueline Steiger as Amanda Thripp, Matilda's classmate who has pigtails when Miss Trunchbull tells her to chop it off.
- Kira Spencer Hesser as Hortensia, an older schoolmate of Matilda who she tells a story of the Trunchbull.
- Jean Speegle Howard as Mrs. Phelps, the librarian who gives books to Matilda.
- Marion Dugan as Cookie, the elderly school cook who makes chocolate cake and is loyal to Miss Trunchbull.
- Jimmy Karz as Bruce Bogtrotter, Matilda's classmate who gets abused by Miss Trunchbull for eating her chocolate cake.
- Jon Lovitz as Mickey (uncredited), the game show host of "The Million Dollar Sticky".
Miriam Margolyes confirmed that she auditioned for the role of Agatha Trunchbull during a filmed interview with Jo Brand for the UK television special Roald Dahl's Revolting Rule Book which was hosted by Richard E. Grant and aired on September 22, 2007. This documentary commemorated Dahl's 90th birthday and also celebrated his impact as a children's author in popular culture. Margolyes went on to play Aunt Sponge (another Dahl villainess) in James and the Giant Peach which was also released in 1996.
Pam Ferris (Miss Trunchbull) incurred several injuries during production on the film. The climactic scene where she is whacked by blackboard erasers required her to keep her eyes open, causing chalk dust to get caught in her eyes and necessitating several trips to the hospital to get her eyes washed out. The scene where Trunchbull whirls Amanda Thripp (Jacqueline Steiger) by her pigtails required a harness to support the little girl, the wires of which were threaded through the pigtails and then looped around Ferris's fingertips to give her grip. As she swung her around the centrifugal force grew too great and tore the top part of Ferris' finger, requiring 7 or 8 stitches.
The Crank House, in Altadena, stood in for Miss Trunchbull's house. The exterior of Matilda's house is located on Youngwood Drive in Whittier, while the library she visits is the Pasadena Public Library on East Walnut Street in Pasadena.
Mara Wilson's mother, Suzie Wilson, was diagnosed with breast cancer during filming and died 4 months before the film’s release. The film was dedicated to her memory. Danny DeVito revealed that prior to her death, he had shown her the final recording of the movie so that she was able to see Wilson’s performance in the movie.
Two songs are featured in the film. One of them, "Send Me on My Way" by Rusted Root, is played twice: when 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' "Little Bitty Pretty One," played when Matilda is learning to control her telekinetic powers. The film's original score was composed by David Newman, a frequent collaborator of DeVito.
The film was released on August 2, 1996.
The film was released on VHS in pan and scan and LaserDisc in widescreen on December 10, 1996 from Columbia TriStar Home Video. In 1997, it was released on a bare-bones dual sided DVD containing fullscreen and widescreen. In August 2013, Wilson and most of her costars from the film had a reunion to celebrate its 17th anniversary and it being released on Blu-ray. The reunion scene was featured in the Blu-ray release.
As of September 2020, on Rotten Tomatoes, Matilda had an approval rating of 90% based on 21 reviews with an average rating of 7.48/10. The website's critical consensus read, "Danny DeVito-directed version of Matilda is odd, charming, and while the movie diverges from Roald Dahl, it nonetheless captures the book's spirit." On Metacritic, as of September 2020, the film had a score of 72 out of 100 based on reviews from 21 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews." Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade B+ on scale of A to F.
Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times praised the film's oddity, gave it three stars out of four and wrote: "Trunchbull is the kind of villainess children can enjoy, because she is too ridiculous to be taken seriously and yet really is mean and evil, like the witch in Snow White. And since most children have at one time or another felt that their parents are not nice enough to them, they may also enjoy the portrait of Matilda's parents." Writing for Empire, Caroline Westbrook gave the film a rating of three stars and praised DeVito's clever direction.
Matilda grossed $33.5 million in the United States against a production budget of $36 million.
In November 2019, DeVito said that he "always wanted to" develop a sequel to Matilda, adding that a potential sequel could star Matilda's own child, due to Wilson having grown up after the film's release.
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- Matilda at Box Office Mojo Accessed September 29, 2020.
- "Roald Dahl's Revolting Rule Book (TV Movie 2007)". IMDb.
- Lazarus, Susanna (26 September 2016). "9 fascinating facts from behind the scenes of Matilda". Radio Times. Retrieved 2018-01-04.
- Andrew Lasane (2014-10-22). "The Real-World Locations of Iconic Movie Homes". Complex magazine. Retrieved 2018-01-04.
- "Whittier's film highlights include 'Back to the Future". Whittier Daily News. July 8, 2013. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
- Russo, Stacy Shotsberger (2008). The Library as Place in California. McFarland & Company. p. 108. ISBN 9780786431946.
- Cerio, Gregory (April 29, 1996). "Lessons in Courage". 45 (17). People. Retrieved September 20, 2019.
- "Mara Wilson - Matilda Star: 'Danny Devito and Perlman Helped Me When Mum Lost Cancer Battle'". Contact Music.com. WENN. June 4, 2013. Retrieved September 20, 2019.
- Courant, Hartford. "IRONIC 'MATILDA' CAN BE ENJOYED BY BOTH ADULTS AND CHILDREN". courant.com.
- Leonara Epstein (December 2, 2013). "Watch "Matilda" Cast Members Reenact Scenes As Grown-Ups". Buzzfeed. Retrieved November 1, 2018.
- "Mara Wilson On 'Matilda' Reunion: It Was 'Just Heartwarming'". The Huffington Post. December 2, 2013. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
- "Matilda". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 29, 2020.
- "Matilda Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved September 29, 2020.
- "MATILDA (1996) B+". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
- Ebert, Roger (August 2, 1996). "Matilda". RogerEbert.com. Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
- Westbrook, Caroline (January 2000). "Matilda". Empire. Retrieved June 7, 2019.
- Danny DeVito "Always Wanted" to Make Matilda 2, Shares Sequel Idea
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