Starring: Mara Wilson, Embeth Davidtz, Danny DeVito
Director: Danny DeVito
Running Time: 98 mins
Matilda is an American film about a young girl whose family does not care for her, nor her education. As a result, she begins to learn about the world by reading books alone, until one day when she finally gets to go to school, although she soon finds that her parents aren’t the only evil adults around.
Of all the Roald Dahl movie adaptations through the years, I think it’s safe to say that none is quite as Roald Dahl-ish as Matilda. A wacky, entertaining and upbeat fantasy adventure, it’s full of laughs and crazy mishaps from start to finish, thanks to excellent directing, a great script and some fantastic central performances.
First off, what really made this film for me was Danny DeVito’s directing. Whilst other Dahl adaptations embrace the fantasy and family enjoyment of his stories, this film goes all out to be as faithful in its delivery as possible. In doing so, DeVito uses all sorts of mind-boggling techniques, including grotesque close-ups, dynamic Dutch angles, whilst the film’s cinematography features brightened colours to make the film feel all the more like a children’s book.
What’s more is that DeVito gives this film a fantastically rapid pace, never dwelling too long on any one single detail, and doing an incredible job at condensing the plot into a sub-100 minute runtime, making this an ideal watch for young kids or anyone else who wants a quick bit of enjoyment.
As well as the direction, however, the performances are also fantastic. In the lead role, Mara Wilson is fantastically likable as the unappreciated genius Matilda, and she pulls of the story’s somewhat more fantastical elements very convincingly, making her a perfect central focus for the viewer.
Along with Wilson, supporting players including Embeth Davidtz, Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman all do a great job at contributing to the film’s wacky vibe, but nobody impresses more than Pam Ferris in the role as the headteacher of Matilda’s new school, Mrs. Trunchbull. Put simply, she’s utterly revolting and hateful at every moment on screen, but that performance was integral to getting me as frustrated and angry as Matilda, pulling me further and further into the story. She may not come across as at all nice, but it’s a fantastic performance that easily achieves the desired effect.
Finally, the plot here isn’t half-bad either. Although not featuring some of the same emotional drama as other Dahl classics like Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, the relentless battle between high-achiever Matilda and all the adults that try to put her down is always great fun to watch, and will have you cheering her and her allies on as she does everything possible to break free from the oppression of those brutal grown-ups. Although a lot more fun than emotionally powerful, there’s nothing to stop you having a great time with this story from start to finish.
Overall, I really liked Matilda. A wacky, insane but most importantly massively entertaining adaptation of Roald Dahl’s novel, this film is a great watch for anyone who loves a good old children’s fantasy. With excellent directing and performances, the film is also an impressive adaptation, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.7.