Matilda (1996 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Danny DeVito|
by Roald Dahl
|Narrated by||Danny DeVito|
|Music by||David Newman|
|Distributed by||TriStar Pictures|
|Box office||$62.1 million|
Matilda is a 1996 American children's fantasy comedy film directed by Danny DeVito, who also produced with Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher, and Lucy Dahl. It was written by Nicholas Kazan and Robin Swicord, based on Roald Dahl's novel of the same name. Mara Wilson, DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Embeth Davidtz, and Pam Ferris star. The film is about a young genius named Matilda, who uses telekinesis to deal with her parents, who do not value education, and Agatha Trunchbull, the oppressive principal of Crunchem Hall Elementary School.
The film was released in the United States on August 2, 1996.
Matilda Wormwood is a genius, but her parents, Harry and Zinnia, ignore and mistreat her. At the age of 4, she discovers the local library and walks there every day to read while her father is at work, her mother is playing bingo, and her older brother, Michael, is at school.
At age six-and-a-half, Matilda begins to lose patience with her parents, expressing a desire to go to school. In retaliation for her father constantly berating her, she adds hydrogen peroxide to his hair tonic, turning his hair an unhealthy blonde. He takes his children 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 responds by putting super glue on his hat, forcing Zinnia to cut it off his head. She reads a borrowed library copy of Moby-Dick, which Harry rips up while her family is watching television. When he forces her to watch with them, she becomes increasingly angry and causes the television set to suddenly explode.
Miss Trunchbull is the tyrannical principal of a rundown elementary school, Crunchem Hall. Harry enrolls Matilda there, where she befriends several children and learns of Trunchbull's violent nature and overtly harsh punishments of the students. Matilda's teacher, Jennifer Honey, is a kind woman who adores her class and takes an immediate liking to Matilda. She requests to Trunchbull that Matilda be moved up to a higher class, but Trunchbull refuses. That night, Miss Honey pays the Wormwoods a visit to encourage them to spend more time with Matilda, but they snub her. Meanwhile, Matilda discovers that her family is under surveillance by FBI agents Bob and Bill due to her father's illegal dealings, but her parents refuse to believe her, as Zinnia thinks they are speedboat salesmen.
Trunchbull goes to Miss Honey's class for a weekly "checkup" to belittle the students. As a prank, Lavender, one of Matilda's friends, places a newt in Trunchbull's water jug to frighten her. Upon discovery of the newt, Trunchbull accuses Matilda, whose anger at the injustice leads her to telekinetically tip the glass over, splashing water and the newt on Trunchbull. Afterward, Miss Honey invites Matilda to her house for tea. On the way, they pass Trunchbull's house, and Miss Honey reveals a secret of hers: When she was two, her mother died, so her father, Magnus, invited his stepsister-in-law, Trunchbull, to live with them and look after her. However, Trunchbull regularly abused her. When Miss Honey was five, her father died of an alleged suicide. Eventually, she moved into a small cottage. Matilda and she sneak into Trunchbull's house while she is out to obtain some of Miss Honey's belongings, but Trunchbull's unexpected return leads to a cat-and-mouse chase, with them only barely escaping without revealing themselves.
When Matilda's telekinetic powers manifest again during an argument with her father, she trains herself to use them at her own will. She returns to Trunchbull's house and uses her telekinesis to wreak havoc in an attempt to scare her away. She almost flees, but Trunchbull finds Matilda's hair ribbon and realizes that she was there. The following 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 Magnus, accusing Trunchbull of murdering him. Trunchbull goes berserk and attacks the students, but Matilda keeps them out of harm's way with her powers, and together they force Trunchbull out of the school permanently. Miss Honey subsequently moves back into her true home.
The FBI finally uncovers enough evidence to prosecute Harry, and the Wormwoods prepare to flee to Guam. They stop by Miss Honey's house to pick up Matilda, but she refuses to go with them and suggests Miss Honey adopt her. In that moment, a remorseful Zinnia laments not understanding her daughter better. She and Harry subsequently sign the adoption papers that Matilda had kept for a long time. They escape and Matilda lives a happy life with Miss Honey, who becomes the new principal of Crunchem Hall.
- Mara Wilson as Matilda Wormwood
- Alissa and Amanda Graham, Trevor and James Gallagher as Matilda – newborn
- Kayla and Kelsey Fredericks as Matilda – 9 months old
- Amanda and Caitlin Fein as Matilda – toddler
- Sara Magdalin as Matilda – 4 years old
- Danny DeVito as Harry Wormwood
- Rhea Perlman as Zinnia Wormwood
- Embeth Davidtz as Miss Jennifer Honey
- Amanda and Kristyn Summers as Miss Honey – 2 years
- Phoebe Pearl as Miss Honey – 5 years
- Pam Ferris as Miss Trunchbull
- 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 Miss Phelps
- Marion Dugan as Cookie
- Emily Eby as Maggie
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's "Little Bitty Pretty One", played when Matilda is learning to control her telekinetic powers. The film's original score was composed by David Newman.
On Rotten Tomatoes, Matilda holds an approval rating of 90% based on 21 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "Danny DeVito-directed version of Matilda is odd, charming, and while the movie diverges from Roald Dahl, it nonetheless captures the book's spirit." In the United States, it 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.
Roger Ebert praised the film's oddity, giving it 3 out of 4 stars, writing: "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."
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.
- "MATILDA (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. August 14, 1996. Retrieved July 24, 2013.
- Matilda at Box Office Mojo
- "Matilda (1996)". worldwideboxoffice.com.
- "Matilda". Rotten Tomatoes. August 2, 1996. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
- Ebert, Roger (August 2, 1996). "Matilda". RogerEbert.com. Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
- "Matilda reunion: Former child star Mara Wilson catches up with Danny DeVito and Embeth Davidtz". MailOnline. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
- "Mara Wilson On 'Matilda' Reunion: It Was 'Just Heartwarming'". The Huffington Post. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
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