A classic Roald Dahl story that might have inadvertently been the inspiration for the Harry Potter books, Matilda is one movie we really never tire of, full of magic fun, and a very scary villain. Matilda Wormwood (Mara Wilson) is a bright little girl that was born into a family that has no clue about how gifted this child really is. Her father, Harry Wormwood (Danny Devito) is the typical used car salesman crook. Her mother (Rhea Perlman) is obsessed with her looks and playing bingo, and her brother, Micheal (Brian Levinson) is just the loser of a big brother that likes to pick on her.
With a family that is so self-absorbed, Matilda becomes very self-sufficient, and learns to read on her own. After devouring all the data in the house, she asks for a book to read. Her father just brushes her off, as he thinks the best thing for his kid is for to become a media-obsessed kid like his son. Matilda looks for ways beyond her parents’ tunnel-vision to find ways to learn new things, and makes her way to the city library. There she takes on more reading challenges, and after reading everything in the children’s section, she moves onto the main stacks, and finally gets a library card, and is constantly bringing home classic books in her red wagon. Everything from Austen to Tolkien, but Dickens becomes her favourite. Her parents never enroll her in school, because someone needs to stay home to sign for the “packages” that Harry keeps receiving, which happen to be hot auto parts. Soon, the feds (Paul Reubens and Tracey Walter) are staking out the house, and no matter how many times Matilda tells her parents, they still don’t believe her, such is their one-sided world.
After her father makes a deal with the principal of Crumbridge Academy, one Agatha Trunchbull (Pam Ferris), and Matilda gets her one big wish, to go to school. Now the new first grader’s dream are going to come crashing down when she meets with this insane educator with a hatred of children. How such a person became a school principal is mind-boggling, but her classmates and sweet-natured teacher, Miss Honey (Embeth Davidtz) are there to balance things out. Soon all the negative things in Matilda’s life become a focus for her to use a power she never knew she had, telekinesis. This amazing kid has tapped into the part of her mind that surely her parents never used, and is going to use it to take on the establishment, and maybe even solve a murder mystery.
This movie has moments that are classic Dahl, with villains similar to Aunts Spiker and Sponge from James and the Giant Peach or the Grand High Witch from The Witches, Trunchbull is seeming almost like an ogre, and not a fun one like Shrek. The chase scene in Trunchbull’s house is exciting, scary, and funny all at once. Seeing Matilda again makes us want to maybe check out some of those fun stories we might have missed, or maybe read Dahl’s books again. Times have changed quite a bit since this movie was released in 1996, but this classic never gets old, and in some ways, many of us will wish to be able to take on the Trunchballs and Harry Wormwood’s of the world the way Matilda did.
Perhaps, someday, we might get our chance.
I give this film a Musing review of