Matilda is a 1996 American fantasy comedy children's film directed and narrated by 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.
Matilda Wormwood (Mara Wilson) is an intelligent girl with a bright personality, but her parents, Harry and Zinnia (Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman), neglect and mistreat her. When Matilda reaches four, she discovers the local library and walks there every day to read while her parents Harry at work, Zinnia at bingo and her older brother, Michael, at school.
By age six-and-a-half, When Harry announces his four cars he sold which he asks for his total money he made and Matilda calculates the total profit for Harry's car selling receipt, Harry accuses Matilda for cheating and constantly punishes her. In retaliation, Matilda sneaks into her parents' bathroom and mixes Harry's hair tonic with Zinnia's hair dye which turns his hair into unhealthy blonde. Harry takes his kids to his retailer, where he reveals that the cars he sells are faulty with unfair prices are made with bumpers super-glued back on, filling transmission motors with sawdust and reversing speedometers. Matilda accuses him of being dishonest causing him to belittling her, so she retaliates by putting super-super-glue in his hat. Later, Zinnia won double bingo and a trip to Café le riz, when Harry wears the hat, he couldn't take it off, Zinnia tries to pull it off for him, but only to accidently pulling the rim off, causing chaos in the restaurant. Later, Zinnia eventually cuts the hat off from Harry. While Harry and his family watching Million Dollars Sticky TV Show, Matilda reads a borrowed library book of Moby Dick which Harry then literately tears out the pages, calling it filth, reacting to the title. When Harry tries to force her to watch with them, Matilda grows increasingly angry and the television that Harry stole suddenly explodes.
The next day, Harry meets Agatha Trunchbull (Pam Ferris), an headmistress of a run-down school, Crunchem Hall, Harry makes a deal with Miss Trunchbull, sells a lemon to her and he eventually enrolls Matilda there, where she befriends several children and learns of Miss Trunchbull's nature, how she used to be in the Olympics which she uses them as her harsh punishments to the students. 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 talks to Miss Trunchbull and requests that Matilda be moved up to a higher class, but Miss Trunchbull refuses. Later, Matilda becomes suspicious when the house is under surveillance by FBI agents (Paul Reubens and Tracey Walter) who are parked outside. Miss Honey pays Matilda's parents a visit and requests that they pay more attention to her, but they refuse to listen. The next day, Miss Trunchbull calls everyone to assembly where she punishes Bruce Bogtrotter for sneaking into the school kitchen and eating her chocolate cake by making him to eating an entire chocolate cake with sweat and blood inside in front of the students. Everyone chants for Bruce to finish and Miss Trunchbull, having enough smashes the plate of Bruce's head after he devoured the cake, and keeps everyone for five hours after school as a detention. Later that night, Matilda tries to tell her parents about the FBI's surveillance, but they refuse to believe her.
Sometime later, Miss Trunchbull locks Matilda in the chokey due to her faulty car and goes to Miss Honey's class for a weekly "check-up" and starts to belittle the students as Miss Honey rescues Matilda. As a prank, Lavender (one of Matilda's friends) places a newt in Miss Trunchbull's water jug 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 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 invited his wife's stepsister, Miss Trunchbull, to live with them and look after Miss Honey. However, Miss Trunchbull mistreated and abused her niece at every opportunity. When Miss Honey was five, her father died of an apparent suicide. Eventually, Miss Honey moved out of her aunt's house and into a small cottage. Matilda and Miss Honey briefly sneak into Miss Trunchbull's house while she is out to the gym and they see above the mantelpiece is a portrait of Miss Trunchbull holding a javelin. When they enter Miss Honey's bedroom, Miss Trunchbull returns unexpectedly after her car breaks down, and angrily phones Harry and threatens to sue him, When she suspects intruders in her house she runs around the house leading to a cat-and-mouse chase with Matilda and Miss Honey only barely escaping, without revealing themselves.
Later, Matilda's telekinetic powers manifest again during an argument of Harry and Zinnia after Harry catches the FBI Agents in the house. She trains herself to use her ability at her own will. When she sees the FBI Agents trying to search for some evidence without a search warrant, She catches them and with her powers, she releases the brake off their car leading the FBI agents to chase after it. That night, Matilda returns to Miss Trunchbull's house, she retrieves Miss Honey's doll and two chocolates, and begins to wreak havoc in an attempt to scare her away, by repeatedly striking her clock, moving the armchair, shaking the power-cables causing the lights to flicker, opening the windows, hurling Miss Trunchbull's portrait into the fireplace, sending all the shot-puts downstairs and placing the portrait of Miss Honey's Father, Magnus back on the wall above the mantelpiece. After the clock strikes twelve, Miss Trunchbull flees from the house, and when she was about to drive away, she finds Matilda's hair ribbon, that was blown to her car mirror after it was caught in a tree and soon realizes that she was there. The next day, Miss 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 Magnus 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. Miss Honey moves back into her father's house.
The FBI finally manage to expose enough evidence to prosecute Harry for his illegal dealings as well as his thievery on stolen car parts, causing Harry and his family 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 decide to let Miss Honey adopt her. The Wormwoods escape, while Matilda lives a happy life with Miss Honey, who, in addition to her teaching duties, also becomes the school's new principal.
- Mara Wilson as Matilda Wormwood, the main protagonist of the film. She is a smart and intelligent young girl of her family.
- Alissa and Amanda Graham, Trevor and James Gallagher as Matilda - newborn
- Kayla and Kelsey Fredericks as Matilda - 9 months
- Amanda and Caitlin Fein as Matilda - toddler
- Sara Magdalin as Matilda - 4 years
- Danny DeVito as Harry Wormwood, Matilda's father. He is an secondary antagonist of the film. He is an crooked car salesman from his own company.
- DeVito also narrates the film.
- Rhea Perlman as Zinnia Wormwood, Matilda's mother. She often goes to bingo, and mistakes the FBI Agents for speedboat salesmen.
- Embeth Davidtz as Miss Jennifer Honey, Matilda's class teacher and the niece of Ms. Trunchbull. She later becomes Matilda's adopted mother.
- Amanda and Kristyn Summers as Jennifer Honey - 2 years
- Phoebe Pearl as Jennifer Honey - 5 years
- Pam Ferris as Agatha Trunchbull the principal of school Matilda attends and the main antagonist.
- Brian Levinson as Michael Wormwood
- Nicholas Cox as Michael - 6 years
- Paul Reubens and Tracey Walter as Bob and Bill. They are the FBI Agents who are onto Harry's illegal dealings.
- Kiami Davael as Lavender
- Jacqueline Steiger as Amanda Thripp
- Kira Spencer Hesser as Hortensia
- Jimmy Karz as Bruce Bogtrotter
- Jean Speegle Howard as Miss Phelps
- Marion Dugan as Cookie
- Craig Lamar Traylor as Child in Classroom
- Jon Lovitz as Mickey, host of The Million Dollar Sticky.
Awards and nominations
- 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
- Best Performance in a Feature Film — Leading Young Actress (Mara Wilson)
- Best Performance in a Feature Film — Supporting Young Actress (Kira Spencer Hesser)
- Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards
- Best Movie
- Best Actress (Mara Wilson)
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 Thurston Harris' "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 received 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.
Home media release
Maltida was released on VHS on December 10th, 1996 and released on laserdisc around 1997. In 2013 Mara Wilson and her former co-stars from "Matilda" had a reunion to celebrate the movie's 17th anniversary and "Matilda" being released on Blu-ray. The reunion scene was featured in the Blu-ray of "Matilda".
- Mara Wilson's mother Suzie Shapiro Wilson, died of breast cancer during filming, so Mara honored her mother and bravely finishing the film which was dedicated to Suzie's memory.
- 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.
- Danny DeVito not only plays Mr. Wormwood but he also serves as the narrator and director.
- The theatrical, home media, and original television printings of the film use the 1993 TriStar Pictures logo, but current television printings are plastered with the 1984 TriStar Pictures logo, so don't expect to see the same version twice.