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Matilda (1996)

Somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world

Directed by:

Danny DeVitoDanny DeVito

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 98 minutes

UK Certificate: PG

On DVD

There’s not a shadow of doubt in my mind that Roald Dahl was responsible for producing some of the finest children’s books ever written. His stories were dark yet extremely funny, knowing yet never patronising, and positively bursting with imagination. You’ve guessed it – I’m a bit of a fan. More importantly, Danny DeVito obviously is as well, otherwise how can you account for how perfectly he captures the Dahl spirit in this marvellous big screen adaptation of the classic ‘Matilda’?

This isn’t the cutesy, kiddy-winky matinee-filler it might at first appear. Though Mara Wilson undoubtedly scores a sky-high rating on the adorability index as the sparkly-eyed little girlie of the film’s title, she’s surrounded by the kind of characters you certainly won’t see popping up in a ‘Winnie the Pooh’ flick any time soon.

Her school’s headmistress, Agatha Trunchbull (Pam Ferris), is a giant, hog-like woman who throws children around by their hair and lives by the motto ‘use the rod, beat the child’. Her father (DeVito) is a crooked car dealer who uses ‘Super Super Glue’ to attach faulty bumpers and is having his every move watched by the FBI. Even her mum (Rhea Perlman) would rather gossip on the telephone or watch the gogglebox than listen to her daughter.

It takes nicey-nicey teacher Miss Honey, a woman who loves the children in her class (and not in a creepy way) to finally take notice of Matilda’s unique abilities. And, as it turns out, calling Matilda ‘unique’ is putting it mildly.

DeVito’s marvellously macabre directorial style suits the tale right down to the ground, while the casting is spot-on. Ferris regularly steals the show as the grunting Trunchbull, DeVito himself is on top comic form as a bad dad, and the kids involved all play their part without fault.

It's Got: Dark, dark humour and some seriously dysfunctional characters. All in the name of good fun, of course.

It Needs: A better DVD package – an audio commentary from DeVito would go down a treat.

DVD Extras Nothing here. DVD Extras Rating: 0/10

Alternatives:

The Witches, Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory

Summary

One of the best live action family flicks of recent years, ‘Matilda’ is remarkably consistent with Dahl’s book and both kids and adults will love it. I know I do.

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