Matilda (1996 film)

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Matilda
Matildaposter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDanny DeVito
Produced byDanny DeVito
Michael Shamberg
Stacey Sher
Liccy Dahl
Screenplay byNicholas Kazan
Robin Swicord
Based onMatilda 
by Roald Dahl
StarringMara Wilson
Danny DeVito
Rhea Perlman
Embeth Davidtz
Pam Ferris
Narrated byDanny DeVito
Music byDavid Newman
CinematographyStefan Czapsky
Edited byLynzee Klingman
Brent White
Production
  company
Jersey Films
Distributed byTriStar Pictures
Release date(s)
  • August 2, 1996 (1996-08-02)
Running time98 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$36,000,000[2][3]
Box office$33,459,416[3]
 
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"Matilda (film)" redirects here. For the unrelated 1978 film, see Matilda (1978 film). For the title character, see Matilda Wormwood.
Matilda
Matildaposter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDanny DeVito
Produced byDanny DeVito
Michael Shamberg
Stacey Sher
Liccy Dahl
Screenplay byNicholas Kazan
Robin Swicord
Based onMatilda 
by Roald Dahl
StarringMara Wilson
Danny DeVito
Rhea Perlman
Embeth Davidtz
Pam Ferris
Narrated byDanny DeVito
Music byDavid Newman
CinematographyStefan Czapsky
Edited byLynzee Klingman
Brent White
Production
  company
Jersey Films
Distributed byTriStar Pictures
Release date(s)
  • August 2, 1996 (1996-08-02)
Running time98 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$36,000,000[2][3]
Box office$33,459,416[3]

Matilda is a 1996 American fantasy comedy children's film directed, narrated by 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 Mara Wilson, Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Embeth Davidtz, and Pam Ferris.

Plot[edit]

Matilda Wormwood (Mara Wilson) is a bright little girl who is constantly trying to find ways of escaping the tough times she has with her stubborn and negligent parents, Harry (Danny DeVito) and Zinnia (Rhea Perlman) Wormwood. After Harry goes to work, Zinnia goes to bingo and Michael goes to school, Matilda begins to read magazines at the age of four while alone at home. One night, Harry refuses to buy her a book because he's addicted to television. One morning, after her parents and Michael go out, she sets out to go to a library to read many books. The librarian, Mrs. Phelps gives Matilda her very own library card so she can take many books home.

By the time she turns six-and-a-half, Matilda begins to lose patience with the ignorant couple who forget how old Matilda is. One day when Harry announces to his family about the four cars he sold, he asks for the total profit which Matilda correctly calculates. This angers Harry; he accuses her of looking at his piece of paper and shoves her into the bedroom. In retaliation, she mixes her father's hair tonic with her mother's hair dye which turns his hair blonde, much to Harry's shock. The FBI Agents Bob (Paul Reubens) and Bill (Tracey Walter) begin to watch the Wormwood's household as Harry takes Michael and Matilda to his workshop: Wormwood Motors, where he reveals that the cars he sells are faulty. He increases the prices at which he sells every car. He uses super-glue to put broken bumpers back on, pours sawdust into the engines and decreases the numbers on the speedometer with a bidirectional drill. Matilda accuses him of being dishonest and a criminal. This makes Harry belittle her, so she retaliates by putting super-glue in his hat, forcing Zinnia to cut it off after a disaster at the restaurant which the Wormwood's went to after Zinnia won the double bingo. Matilda reads a borrowed library book of Moby Dick. Harry then tears out the pages, calling it "trash" reacting to the title while her family is watching television. When Harry tries to force her to watch with them, Matilda grows increasingly angry and the television, stolen from another residence, suddenly explodes.

Agatha Trunchbull (Pam Ferris), the headmistress of a run-down school, Crunchem Hall buys a car from Harry's workshop. Harry enrolls Matilda there, where she befriends several children and learns of Miss Trunchbull's nature and her harsh punishments of the students (Julius was thrown out of the window after eating two M&Ms, and Hortensia was shoved into the chokey twice). Miss Trunchbull throws Amanda Thripp into the air by her pigtail braids. Luckily, she lands in a flower patch much to the children's delight and the Trunchbull's dismay. However, Matilda's teacher, Miss Jennifer Honey (Embeth Davidtz), is a kind woman who adores her pupils and takes an immediate liking to Matilda. Miss Honey speaks with Miss Trunchbull and requests that Matilda be moved up to a higher class after she solves an extremely difficult math problem, but Trunchbull refuses after having some information from Harry. Miss Honey pays Matilda's parents a visit and requests that they pay more attention to her, but they refuse to listen since Harry had never enrolled in college before he founded Wormwood Motors.

The next day, Miss Trunchbull calls the entire school to the assembly hall where Bruce Bogtrotter is forced up to the platform to eat a piece of chocolate cake as a punishment for innocently eating Miss Trunchbull's piece. After that, he then has to eat a whole chocolate cake (along with sweat and blood in it from the cook). He manages to eat all of it by the encouragement of the students which then causes Miss Trunchbull to keep everyone for an extra 5 hours. After finally arriving at home late at night, Matilda discovers that her family is under FBI surveillance due to her father's case of stolen car parts, but her parents refuse to believe her (Zinnia thinks the FBI Agents are ace powerboat salesman).

The next day, Miss Trunchbull locks Matilda in the chokey due to Harry being a scam artist and selling her a faulty car and then goes to Miss Honey's class for a weekly "check-up". Trunchbull starts to belittle the students as Miss Honey goes off to rescue Matilda. As a prank, Lavender, one of Matilda's friends, places a newt in Miss Trunchbull's water pitcher to frighten her. She accuses Matilda, whose anger at the injustice leads to her telekinetically tipping the glass over, splashing water and the newt on Miss Trunchbull. Miss Trunchbull continues accusing Matilda before she leaves swearing that she will be watching everyone. Miss Honey invites Matilda to her house for tea. On the way, they pass Miss Trunchbull's house, and Miss Honey reveals her secret: when she was two years old, her mother died, so her father Magnus, a doctor, invited his wife's stepsister, Miss Trunchbull, to live with them and look after Miss Honey while he was at work. However, Miss Trunchbull mistreated and abused her niece at every opportunity. When Miss Honey was five, her father died of an apparent suicide (as said in the novel, he left all of his assets to Miss Trunchbull after the police think that Magnus has committed suicide). Eventually, Miss Honey moved out of her aunt's house and into a small cottage. While Miss Trunchbull is out to go to the gym, Matilda and Miss Honey briefly sneak into Miss Trunchbull's house. When they are upstairs to see Miss Honey's doll and the portrait of Magnus, Miss Trunchbull returns shortly thereafter and angrily phones Harry because the car that Harry had sold to her broke down on the way to the gym. Trunchbull then notices the chocolate box lid is not on straight, which leads to a cat-and-mouse chase with Matilda and Miss Honey only barely escaping.

Matilda's telekinetic powers manifest, again, when she sees Harry and Zinnia having an argument (after Harry sends the FBI Agents out who were having a conversation with Zinnia). She starts training herself in using her ability at her own will. Matilda then sees the FBI Agents searching for a box of stolen car parts in the garage without a search warrant. She catches them and, with her powers, she puts the FBI Agents' car into drive. While they chase their car, Matilda pulls out the surveillance tape and puts it the garbage bin.

One windy night, Matilda returns to Miss Trunchbull's house. She climbs up the garage roof to retrieve Miss Honey's Doll and goes back down to retrieve two chocolates without Miss Trunchbull looking as she is practicing her javelin throw on the wall. Then, Matilda uses her powers to wreak havoc in an attempt to scare her away, (e.g., repeatedly striking her clock, moving the armchair, flickering the lights, opening the windows, throwing an Olympic portrait of Trunchbull into the fireplace, sending all the shot-puts downstairs, and placing the portrait of Magnus back on its rightful place above the mantelpiece which makes Miss Trunchbull thinks the portrait is glaring at her for supposedly murdering him). When the clock strikes again, Miss Trunchbull flees from her house in terror. When she was about to drive off, she finds Matilda's red hair ribbon (which was caught in the branches after receiving Miss Honey's doll) on the car's window and realizes that she was there.

The next day, Miss Trunchbull visits Miss Honey's class again to get Matilda to admit her guilt. She uses her powers to write a message on the blackboard, posing as the ghost of Miss Honey's father Magnus (who Trunchbull thought was wrecking the havoc at her house) and accusing her of murdering him. Miss Trunchbull attacks the students, but Matilda keeps them out of harm's way with her powers and the students force Miss Trunchbull out of the school by pelting her with food and garbage. Miss Trunchbull drives off never to be seen again. Miss Honey moves back into her house (as said in the novel her father's true will is discovered by the police, which named Miss Honey as the sole beneficiary), and Matilda is a frequent visitor.

The FBI agents are finally able to uncover enough evidence to the authorities in order to prosecute Harry for his illegal dealings. Harry and his family prepare to flee to Guam. They stop by Miss Honey's house to pick up Matilda, but she refuses to go with them. Harry and Zinnia finally see that Matilda would be better off without them, and decide to let Miss Honey adopt her (Matilda happens to have adoption papers in her backpack, which she says she has carried with her all her life). The Wormwood's escape, while Matilda lives a happy life with Miss Honey. Miss Honey becomes the new principal of Crunchem Hall, to which she adds a upper school because none of the lower school students want to leave.

Cast[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Wins
Nominations

The film was submitted for an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Musical or Comedy Score, but wasn't nominated.

Music[edit]

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 Thurston 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.

Reception[edit]

Matilda received critical acclaim at the time of its release. On Rotten Tomatoes, it holds a "fresh" rating of 90%.[4] In the United States, the film earned $33 million in contrast to its $36 million budget.[2][3] It fared better during its worldwide release and ended up earning back nearly double its original budget[citation needed] as well as on home video and television.

References[edit]

External links[edit]