Most helpful positive review
100 of 108 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2002
Matilda is worth watching, and I think worth owning too. However, let's get the reservations over before all the good stuff.
Miss Trunchbull, played by Pam Ferris, is a sadist. She is definitely mean. At two places in the movie she throws a child out a school window (she is really, really mean). Matilda's parents are self-absorbed and at best ignore Matilda, which occasionally borders on abuse. The images of Matilda's school can be disturbing, especially the "Chokie", a small cramped dark closet with spikes in the door. These images could be disturbing for younger children, particularly those under the age of 7 or 8. However, you have to judge the ability of your child to understand that these images are not real. These are the dark parts of the movie.
Matilda is clearly a genius, as evidenced by her actions from a very early age. Matilda overcomes her not very bright parents and learns how to fend for herself in the world. In fact, after a while she treats her parents as something to be concerned about, because they clearly do not know how to take care of themselves in the world.
Matilda is a positive role model throughout the movie. She learns to read on her own, and finds the value in the library and books. She learns that there are people who understand her (Miss Jennifer Honey, played by Embeth Davidtz) and love her for who she is. She also learns that people who seem scary to her (Miss Trunchbull) can be scary to others. Her desire to protect others and do what is right helps her overcome her fear of Miss Trunchbull and do what is right.
Mara Wilson plays Matilda very well. She has a lot of talent, and makes Matilda come alive. Danny De Vito plays Matilda's father and Rhea Perlman plays Matilda's mother, and every time I see them I cringe because these two are very unlikable characters, and I like Danny particularly. Danny also does a very good job narrating this movie, which somewhat ameliorates his turn as a semi-villain.
This movie celebrates, as it does in most Roald Dahl books, the triumph of right over wrong, and perhaps good over evil. The characters verge on being cartoonish, which is fitting for a children's movie. Having Matilda be telekinetic adds a wonderful element of fantasy with which children will identify. It is often a childhood fantasy to have powers or abilities to make things right, and Matilda obtains such a power and uses it for good.
This movie has a darker side, but the humorous moments and the Matilda's triumph over all the odds against her make this a fun movie. Worth watching again and again, I think this movie is well targeted to 8 to 12 year olds, but those of us adults that want to still believe that good will always triumph over bad and that good things eventually come to good people will find the message uplifting.