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The Amazing Story of Matilda
‘Matilda’ is my favourite children’s book by Roald Dahl!
It’s also my favourite children’s movie that’s wonderfully directed by Danny DeVito! I have very fond childhood memories of this film when I was growing up as a child. It’s a wonderful film starring Mara Wilson as Matilda. The movie also stars Danny DeVito, Rhea Pearlman, Embeth Davidtz and Pam Ferris.
When I was at school at around 9 to 10 years old in the 1990s, my class and I were introduced to this film and book called ‘Matilda’. I loved the movie so much that after watching it at school and on TV one Christmas, I wanted to have it on VHS. ‘Matilda’ was one of the happiest periods of my childhood!
Soon in the age of DVD, I wanted to own ‘Matilda’ as a film on DVD. The original 2001 DVD was pretty rubbish. But in 2004, ‘Matilda’ was re-released onto a brand new Special Edition DVD containing more special features with behind-the-scenes interviews featuring cast and crew on the making of this film.
‘Matilda’ is based on the book by Roald Dahl, who also wrote ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ and ‘James and the Giant Peach’. It was published in 1988 and is a story about a little girl who gets ignored by her family. She becomes somebody extraordinary as she goes to school and gains amazing powers.
The reason why that I like ‘Matilda’ so much is that I enjoyed watching the movie and reading the book in school. The teacher would read us a chapter per day as we delved more into the world of ‘Matilda’. ‘Matilda’ is a clever film about kids and life in general. It’s a movie that has grown on me over the years.
Despite being filmed in America and not in the UK, it’s well-adapted from Roald Dahl’s original book by Danny DeVito and his filmmaking team. It’s a faithful adaption to what the story’s about. I loved every moment featured in the movie and especially how Mara Wilson plays Matilda with believability.
Mara Wilson stars as Matilda, the extraordinary girl with a super brain. This is one of Mara’s five film appearances on the big screen and it’s one that she’s well-remembered and loved for. Mara is absolutely sweet in this movie and delivers this honest performance as Matilda, who is kind and clever.
There are times when Matilda punishes her dad with his hair gel and superglue in his hat, but she does it to teach him a lesson when he’s being mean to her. She also loves reading books; has a special relationship with her teacher Miss Honey and defies the bullying ways of her principal, Miss Trunchbull.
Danny DeVito, the film’s director, stars as Matilda’s dad, Harry Wormwood. Harry is a car salesman who cheats on people when they purchase his cars at unfair prices. He gets tremendously wealthy and lives in a very nice house. But Harry is not a very nice person as he is pretty rude and dismisses Matilda.
I found it funny when Matilda messes up Harry’s hair gel and he uses his wife’s peroxide to make him blonde-haired. Harry screams in front of the mirror. Matilda even laughs at that 😀 It was also funny when Harry could not get his hat off his head with it being stuck via super glue and his wife tried to get it off.
By the way, Danny DeVito is also the narrator for this film as well as being the director and playing Harry Wormwood. That was so surreal and interesting to discover whilst watching the film. I don’t think it’s the dad who is narrating the movie, especially since Danny DeVito does it in the third person.
Rhea Pearlman, who was Danny DeVito’s wife at the time, stars as Matilda’s mom, Zinnia Wormwood. Rhea is well-known for playing Carla in the TV TV sitcom series, ‘Cheers’. Zinnia, like Harry, doesn’t take an interest in Matilda either. She enjoys watching TV with her husband and she plays bingo every day.
I found it funny when Matilda comes in on her first day at school and Zinnia asks her, “How was school?” But Zinnia ignores what Matilda tells her when she’s on the phone. I also liked that scene where Zinnia and Harry meet Miss Honey. She doesn’t seem to realise that the ‘speedboat salesmen’ are FBI agents.
Embeth Davidtz stars as Miss Honey, Matilda’s schoolteacher. Embeth starred in ‘Schindler’s List’ and was in ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ movies. Miss Honey is a remarkably sweet and kind schoolteacher in Matilda’s class. She’s especially kind to Matilda and is so amazed by how brilliant her brainpower is.
She tries to get Matilda further up in her education but she gets blocked by Miss Trunchbull and the Wormwoods to do it. There’s an also a motherly aspect to Miss Honey which she shares upon Matilda. Miss History has a history where she ran away from her old home and the Trunchbull is really her aunt.
Pam Ferris stars as the evil Miss Trunchbull. Pam has appeared in many TV, film and audio productions including the ‘Doctor Who’ audio story, ‘The Eternal Summer’. Miss Trunchbull is the principal of Crunchem Hall, Matilda’s school. She hates children and does some terrible things to them in this film.
It was a shock when Miss Trunchbull throws Amanda Thripps around; throws children out of a window and even forces Bruce Bogtrotter to eat a gigantic chocolate cake. Despite the Trunchbull’s bullying ways, she has a superstitious fear of things. Matilda uses that to her advantage when using her powers.
In the film, Matilda makes a number of friends at the school. There’s Kiami Davael as Lavender, Matilda’s best friend; Kira Spencer Hesser as Hortensia; Jimmy Karz as Bruce Bogtrotter who eats a gigantic chocolate cake in the movie and also Jacqueline Steiger as Amanda Thripp who wears pig tails.
Danny DeVito directs a deliciously delightful children’s movie throughout. Danny’s field is in comedy and he puts that into the film during certain comedic moments. But Danny also puts in this lovely blend of drama that is essential, especially when Matilda is sad or lonely. He also casts the movie well.
I love the set designs featured in this film. There’s the set for the Wormwood’s house and the sets for Crunchem Hall school e.g. from the cheerful Miss Honey’s class to the bleak Miss Trunchbull’s office. I also like the two different homes of Miss Honey’s cottage and Miss Trunchbull’s house during the film.
The special effects are very well handled in the film. There are some really good special effects moments such as the super-glue hat sequence with the flying food; the exploding TV and Matilda’s dancing in the Wormwood house’s living room as well as her using her magic powers during the movie.
The Special Edition DVD special features are as follows. There are some ‘featurettes’ to enjoy that look at the behind-the-scenes making of the movie. There’s ‘Matilda’s Movie Magic’ that can be played either as a single documentary or throughout the film when a magic ribbon appears in certain scenes. There’s also ‘A Children’s Guide to Good Manners’; ‘Escape to the Library’ and ‘My Movie About Making Matilda by Mara Wilson’. Each of these behind-the-scenes featurettes include cast and crew interviews, including Mara Wilson in her own ‘movie’ and she’s truly remarkable and bright in real life. For the kids, there’s a ‘Matilda The Movie – Read Along’, which is a DVD storybook that can either be read to you or you can read it yourself. I prefer having the story read to you, especially when you can sit back and relax. There are some nice sound bites from the film to accompany the storybook reading. There are a number of games to play. There’s ‘A Truly Terrible Test’ where the Trunchbull tests your general knowledge. Believe me, I found this really challenging since the three rounds are ‘Mildly Annoying’; ‘Somewhat Dreadful’ and ‘Deviously Nasty’. If you fail, you get sent into the chokey by her. There are also some ‘Classroom Games’ including the Spelling Bee and Math Magic. My favourite word used in the Spelling Bee is ‘Difficulty’. In the movie, Miss Honey’s class learnt how to spell that word via a poem. The class in my school also used that poem to learn how to spell ‘Difficulty, which was fun. There’s also the ‘Get Rid of the Trunchbull’ trivia game which contains four rounds on four scenes. There’s also ‘Make Magic with Matilda’ which is a mix and match card game and there’s ‘Terrify the Trunchbull’ which is a series of interactive items that scare the Trunchbull. Some of these items I found very funny. There’s also ‘Matilda the Movie Character Gallery’ which features profiles on the main characters of the movie. These character profiles include Matilda, Miss Honey, the Wormwoods and Miss Trunchbull. There’s also a series of film trailers for other children’s films, but not one for ‘Matilda’ sadly.
I now have ‘Matilda’ on Blu-ray. On the Blu-ray, there’s a 2013 reunion documentary featuring the cast and crew of ‘Matilda’ called ‘Afternoon Tea: A Very Magical ‘Matilda’ Reunion’. I’m annoyed it’s not on the DVD, but I’m glad to have seen it on Blu-ray as it is a lovely reunion featuring the cast and crew. The DVD special features that survive on the Blu-ray are ‘Matilda’s Movie Magic’, ‘A Children’s Guide to Good Manners’; ‘Escape to the Library’ and ‘My Movie About Making Matilda by Mara Wilson’. Sadly the DVD games aren’t on the Blu-ray which is a shame. There are some movie previews too.
So ‘Matilda’ is a great children’s film that I have very fond memories of. It features a splendidly delightful performance by Mara Wilson as Matilda and the film is brilliantly directed by Danny DeVito. It is also a fantastic adaption of Roald Dahl’s book and one of my favourites! I’m sure it’ll be yours too!
By the way, if you want to see more of Mara Wilson, check out her other film appearances in ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’, ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, ‘A Simple Wish’ and ‘Thomas and the Magic Railroad’. I’ve seen all of Mara Wilson’s five films and have enjoyed them. I must get around to review them all sometime.
‘Matilda’ rating – 10/10
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