Matilda is a 1996 American fantasy comedy children's film directed, narrated, and starring Danny DeVito. The screenplay by Nicholas Kazan and Robin Swicord is based on Roald Dahl's novel of the same name. The film was released by TriStar Pictures on August 2, 1996 and stars Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Embeth Davidtz, Pam Ferris, and Mara Wilson.
Matilda Wormwood is an intelligent girl with a bright personality, but her parents, Harry and Zinnia, neglect and mistreat her. When Matilda reaches four, she discovers the local library and walks there every day to read while her parents are at work and her older brother, Michael, is at school.
By age six-and-a-half, Matilda begins to lose patience with her parents. In retaliation for her father's teasing, she mixes his hair tonic with her mother's hair dye. Harry takes his family 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 retaliates by putting super-glue in his hat, forcing Zinnia to cut it off. Harry belittles Matilda for reading while her family is watching television. When Harry tries to force her to watch with them, Matilda grows increasingly angry and the television suddenly explodes.
Agatha Trunchbull is the headmistress of a run-down school, Crunchem Hall. Harry enrols Matilda in the school, where she befriends several children and learns of Miss Trunchbull's nature and her harsh punishments of the students. Matilda's teacher, Miss Jennifer Honey, is a kind woman who adores her pupils and takes an immediate liking to Matilda. Miss Honey speaks with Trunchbull and requests that Matilda be moved up to a higher class. Miss Honey pays Matilda's parents a visit and requests that they pay more attention to their daughter, but they refuse to listen. Meanwhile, Matilda discovers that her family is under FBI surveillance because of her father's shady dealings, but her parents refuse to believe her.
Sometime later, Trunchbull goes to Miss Honey's class for a weekly "check-up" and starts to belittle the students. As a prank, a student places a newt in Trunchbull's water jug to frighten her. Trunchbull accuses Matilda, whose anger at the injustice leads to her telekinetically tipping the glass over, splashing water on Trunchbull. Miss Honey invites Matilda to her house for tea.
On the way, they pass Trunchbull's house, and Miss Honey reveals her secret: when she was two years old, her mother died, so her father invited his wife's stepsister, Trunchbull, to live with them and look after Miss Honey while he was at work. However, Trunchbull mistreated and abused her niece at every opportunity. When Miss Honey was five, her father died of an apparent suicide and left all of his assets to Trunchbull. Eventually, Miss Honey moved out of her aunt's house into a small cottage. Matilda and Miss Honey briefly sneak into Trunchbull's house while she is out, but her unexpected return leads to a cat-and-mouse chase with Matilda and Miss Honey only barely escaping.
When Matilda's telekinetic powers manifest again during an argument, she trains herself to use her ability at her own will. Matilda returns to Trunchbull's house, wreaking havoc in an attempt to scare Trunchbull away. Trunchbull almost flees, but she finds Matilda's ribbon and realizes that she was there. The next 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 Miss Honey's father and accusing Trunchbull of murdering him. Trunchbull attacks the students, but Matilda keeps them out of harm's way with her powers and the students force Trunchbull out of the school by pelting her with food and garbage. Miss Honey's father's true will is discovered by the police, which named Miss Honey as the sole beneficiary, so she moves back into her home, and Matilda is a frequent visitor.
The FBI finally uncovers enough evidence to prosecute Harry, and he and his wife and son prepare to flee. They stop by Miss Honey's house to pick up Matilda, but she refuses to go with them. Harry asks his wife what she thinks about that, and Zinnia finally confesses that Matilda is the only daughter she ever had, and she never understood her - not one little bit. So they decide to let Miss Honey adopt her (which Miss Honey is glad to do, as she views Matilda as the daughter she'd always wanted). The Wormwoods escape, while Matilda lives a happy life with Miss Honey.
- Mara Wilson as Matilda Wormwood
- Danny DeVito as Harry Wormwood
- Rhea Perlman as Zinnia Wormwood
- Embeth Davidtz as Miss Jennifer Honey
- Pam Ferris as Agatha Trunchbull
- Brian Levinson as Michael Wormwood
- Nicholas Cox as Michael - 6 years
- Paul Reubens as FBI Agent Bob
- Tracy Walter as FBI Agent Bill
- Kiami Davael as Lavender
- Jacqueline Steiger as Amanda Thripp
- Kira Spencer as Hortensia
- Jimmy Karz as Bruce Bogtrotter
- Jean Speegle Howard as Mrs. Phelps
- Marion Dugan as Cookie
- Emily Eby as Maggie
- Craig Lamar Taylor as Child in Classroom
- Jon Lovitz as Mickey on The Million Dollar Sticky
Awards and nominationsEdit
- 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
The film was submitted for an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Musical or Comedy Score, but wasn't nominated.
Three songs are featured in the movie. One of them, "Send Me On My Way" by Rusted Root, is played twice: when the 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 Thruston Harris's "Little Bitty Pretty One", played when Matilda is learning to control her psychokinetic powers.
The film's original score was composed by David Newman.
Matilda recieved critical acclaim at the time of its release. On Rotten Tomatoes, it holds a "fresh" rating of 90%. In the United States, the film 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.
- The picture of Miss Honey's father, Magnus, is actually a portrait of Roald Dahl, the author of the book "Matilda," upon which the film is based.
- As a child, Miss Honey had a doll named Liccy Doll. One of the producers of the film is author Roald Dahl's widow, Liccy Dahl.
- Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman were married in real life when the movie is being made.
- Mariska Hargitay turned down the role of Miss Honey.
- Kylie Tyndall and Keaton Tyndall were originally cast as Young Matilda, but had to be replaced last minute due to high fevers and the flu.
- The car Harry sells to the Trunchbull is a 1970 Buick Electra 225 sedan.
- Richard Donner was considered to direct the film.
- When the black cat is stalking Miss Trunchbull we hear a meowing sound, but the cat isn't opening it's mouth.
- When Matilda grabs the floating tape from the cop's open recorder, the sound of her hand touching the tape and the action of her actually grasping it do not match.
- When Amanda is thrown over the fence, she slides along the ground then stands up and shakes herself but the sound comes seconds later.
- We see the chandelier in the foyer of Miss Trunchbull's house fall to the floor in one shot while Miss Trunchbull is chasing our two heroes, but minutes later, it's hung up again.
- The position of the lid on the chocolate box changes between shots (after it is replaced in a hurry as Trunchbull enters the house).
- When Mr. Wormwood is telling the kids to turn the miles back on the car he tells them to look at the speedometer. The odometer tracks the miles not the speedometer.
- The icing on Matilda's cake at "The Ritz" jumps about between shots.
- The Trunchbull's cake has two layers in some shots and three layers in others.
- Chalk "X" on the blackboard changes to a straight line.
- The FBI agent's camcorder opens twice.
- The water level in the glass that holds the nest.
- When Lavender is levitated, the wires are visible as she descends (pan and scan version).
- When Zinnia is coloring her hair, you can see there's no hair dye in the bottle.