It’s a rare family movie that is just as appealing to adults as to the kids it’s supposed to be aimed at. Matilda, based on Roald Dahl’s classic tale, is such a film, thanks in great part to Danny DeVito’s spot-on direction and a winning central performance from eight-year-old Mara Wilson in the title role.
Matilda is an incredibly intelligent but lonely little girl in love with books and learning, who is unfortunately cursed with two coarse, dim-witted TV-addicted parents, Harry (DeVito) and Zinnia Wormwood (DeVito’s real-life wife Perlman). After much pleading on Matilda’s part, they finally let her attend school, but they send her to the sinister Crunchem Hall, run by forbidding, child-hating principal Agatha Trunchbull (Pam Ferris). But with the help of loveable young teacher Miss Honey (Embeth Davidtz), Matilda is soon turning the tables on all the horrible old adults, and uncovering her own special talent, which helps her to turn her dreary life into something much more fun.
The idea of a child being smarter and more cunning than her parents will appeal to junior audiences, while adults will get a kick out of the sassy, grown-up humour and wickedly funny performances from DeVito, Perlman and especially an hilariously over-the-top Pam Ferris. In the director’s chair, DeVito keeps the action tight, never allowing the film to be overwhelmed by too many special effects or exaggerated performances. As delicious as Dahl’s original work, this is one fantasy that kids and grown-ups still in touch with the naughty child inside them will want to buy into.
Is Matilda suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
Younger viewers may be scared by ‘The Chokey’, where children are locked by Miss Trunchbull. They also may not understand the over-the-top cartoon style violence, so may be scared by it. One for the over-8s.