Danny DeVito’s critically acclaimed movie Matilda was released in US cinemas twenty years ago today on 2nd August 1996.
Based on the Roald Dahl book of the same name, the film follows the uplifting story of a child genius whose parents ignore and mistreat her. It made $8,209,000 in its opening weekend and grossed $33,084,249. It was made into a musical in 2010, with the music and lyrics written by Tim Minchin, and adapted by Dennis Kelly.
Mara Wilson stars as the genius Matilda Wormwood who is brought up by parents (Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman) who would rather watch TV, and ignore her. All she wants to do is go to school and read books, and eventually is sent to a school with the worst headteacher ever, Trunchball. However she does have a teacher who cares for her, Miss Honey (Embeth Davidtz) and a friend called Lavender (Kiami Davael). She starts to unwittingly develop telekinetic powers, and eventually learns to control them, to very comic effect leading to her enemies getting a well-deserved comeuppance.
The success of the movie is definitely due to the uplifting end to the film. You’re rooting for Matilda to be with a family who understand her, for Trunchball to leave the school, for Bruce Bogtrotter (Jimmy Karz) to eat that cake. The soundtrack is very well done, with ‘Send Me On My Way’ and the baking scene still being iconic. Matilda references another book by Dahl, The Witches, when Matilda tells Miss Honey about the speed of a mouse’s beating heart – the same conversation had by The Witches protagonist and his grandmother.
Matilda was also a critical and commercial success, and remains popular today, with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 90%. It also did well when it came to recognition in award ceremonies winning awards for Best Performance by a Young Actress (Mara Wilson as the titular role) and Best Director awarded to Danny Devito. The film was also nominated for other awards including Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Best Performance in a Feature Film.
Relive the magic of the Matilda film in the video below.