Imaginative fantasy Matilda (Mara Wilson) is a genius born into an unappreciative family. Her father (Danny DeVito) is an unscrupulous used car salesman, with a lucrative stolen car parts business on the side. Her mother (Rhea Perlman) is a ditzy bingo addict. By the age of 2, Matilda is already caring for herself, and doing a fine job at it. By the age of four, she makes her way to the local library and begins a nonstop learning process. Finally, when she is six, she persuades her parents to let her go to school (they’d rather her stay home and sign for packages). Anyway, she is enrolled in Crunchem Hall…a monstrous place, presided over by the cruel Trunchbull (Pam Ferris). Luckily for Matilda, her first grade teacher is Miss Honey (Embeth Davitz), a kindred spirit who recognizes Matilda’s unique talents. And what talents they are…not only is she a genius, but she shows some emerging telekinetic powers. This puts Matilda in the position to get revenge on those who have been mean or cruel to her. Mara Wilson is a good fit for the title role, she’s sweet without being cloying. Pam Ferris is a delight as the evil Trunchbull, the epitomy of pure rage, somehow put in charge of a school full of children, all of whom she hates. Of the rest of the characters, none have much depth, even for a children’s film. DeVito and Perlman have a couple of good comic bits, but they’re really rather simple characters. The biggest distraction from the story, however, is the addition of Matilda’s magical abilities. They seem rather tacked on, and make the rest of Matilda’s achievements seem trivial. Still, the film performs its wish fulfillment and revenge fantasies with great imagination.
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