Retro Review: Matilda

By: Emily Kellas

Rating: 8 out of 10

As one of this week’s new releases Mr. Popper’s Penguins, based on the classic children’s book by Richard and Florence Atwater has inspired this weeks retro review. It got me thinking about my favorite children’s books that have been brought to live by the glory of the silver screen. As a kid I was odd, therefore nothing intrigued me more than author Ronald Dahl, and the book that sparked my creativity, Matilda. The zany novel was brought to reality in 1996 by director Danny Devito, and in the star role Mara Wilson. The film is able to capture the
human aspect behind the magic created by the fanciful words of Mr. Dahl.


Matilda, is a young girl with powers much greater than she could ever imagine. But her life is far from magical, living with a crooked used car salesman father, a tacky mother, and a bully brother. She alway knew she was different but it wasn’t until she was finally enrolled into school that she realized her potential. Winning the heart of her teacher, and ending up on the sour end of her frightening principal Matilda makes friends and discovers that with her smarts and a little magic she can concur the evils of her life.

Mara Wilson does a fantastic job at portraying a young girl so confident in her self and her brains that she has the ability to move mountains, well at least move dolls. Danny Devito and Rhea Pearlman are freakishly believable as the rotten parents who should never have had children. Perhaps their real life marriage gave them a love life advantage but their cruelty and antagonistic ways gave Matilda an outlet to direct her anger and hone her powers. Pam Ferris as Agatha Trunchbull the school’s body builder principal creates perhaps one the the down right meanest villain’s in kids film history. She embodies everything children dread most in a principal down to her scowl, growl, and grotesque mole.

The special effects are not high tech, nor are they the bulk of the film, which in this reviewers opinion is a good thing, and what brings the films message out that much more clear. With nothing more than a few floating objects the magic seems to remain in the smarts of little Matilda and her determination to be herself, and get even better.

Filled with wonderful characters, and an even better message Matilda is one of the best children’s book movie adaptations ever shown on the big screen. As a child of the nineties, Matilda was there at the most appropriate time to help me to realize that being smart wasn’t something to be laughed at, but that intelligence, especially that found inside the pages of books, was to be
cherished. So this weekend as your babysitting the neighbors, your cousins or your siblings pick a movie that will keep them entertained, and thinking, pick Ronald Dahl’s Matilda.

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