Roald Dahl's Matilda Review

Image for Roald Dahl's Matilda

Story of a wonderful little girl, who happens to be a genius, and her wonderful teacher vs. the worst parents ever and the worst school principal imaginable.


Matilda is a blackly comic, delightfully off-the-wall picture that both kids and adults will lap up. The titular Matilda (Wilson) is the child genius born into a family of no-hopers, headed by crooked car salesman pop (DeVito) and flirtatious, white trash mom (Rhea Perlman). Left to her own devices from an early age, Matilda is soon digesting the entire contents of the local library, discovering latent telekinetic powers and whipping up culinary masterpieces in the kitchen even though she has to stand on a chair to reach the work surfaces.

Her folks, on the other hand, are less convinced of their daughter's talents and pack her off to Crunchem Hall, a nightmarish school headed by the sadistic Miss Trunchbull (Ferris). It's here that Matilda's abilities really come to the fore, her brain power attracting the attention of sickly sweet schoolmarm-with-secret Miss Honey (Embeth Davidtz), and her object-flinging tendencies exacting horrible payback on the headmistress from hell.

In the wrong hands, this could have been an overblown mess, but thankfully there's taut, clever direction at work here, DeVito weaving hilariously twisted set-pieces (a nail-gnawing trek through the Trunchbull residence, a cake-scoffing marathon guaranteed to make even chocoholics lay down their Mars bars) and scrupulous attention to detail around this fantastical whimsy of a story.

In fact, this is exactly how you would expect a jaunt into Dahl's work to look — all kitsch chintzy furniture skewed overhead camera angles making everybody look enormous of bonce and gaudily-attired, larger than life characters. DeVito and Perlman excel Ferris is a menacing hoot, but the real lynchpin here is the endearing Wilson proving after Miracle On 34th Street that she is one of the few child actor: who really can deliver the goods.

An absolute charmer.