Hollywood Rewind | Matilda: An enchanting Roald Dahl adaptation that will ‘move’ you

Upon its release, Danny DeVito directorial Matilda failed to spread magic at the box office, but the fantasy film has accquired something of a cult status over the years.

Perhaps not as popular as Roald Dahl‘s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, starring Mara Wilson in the titular role, is as magical, wondrous and full of surprises as the former. This is thanks in large part to filmmaker and actor Danny DeVito’s vision regarding the fantastical movie. DeVito, an acclaimed actor, is seen playing the bumbling and apathetic father to the young Matilda in the film. And although in some ways dissimilar to the source material, the director’s take on the book was appreciated since he managed to retain the very essence of the feature.
Sample this one sequence from the film when Matilda has finally mastered her psychokinetic abilities. The montage-ish scene sees our heroine bit by bit establish her powers to the camera, and then she dances around in joy. This one act captures the childlike, pure energy of the narrative perfectly.
For the uninitiated, Matilda revolves around a young girl who is shunned by her family despite being a bonafide genius. This is a unique family who wants little to do with their prodigal daughter. Despite suffering emotional and mental trauma, little Matilda stays put as best as she could, because, honestly, what other options does she have? But things take a dramatic turn when Matilda discovers her supernatural abilities, which she puts to good use to teach her cruel family a lesson.
Her tyrannical and (comically) frightful headmistress, aptly named by the writer as Agatha Trunchbull, is another antagonist who Matilda battles bravely and smartly. What is great about the book as well as the movie is that it teaches (and not in a preachy way) youngsters to stand up for themselves. Matilda, in fighting her wars, helps other people of her school (including a teacher) realise their inner courage and strength, thus reminding them that these values can be imbibed at any stage in life.
Casting child actors is not easy, and then convincing them to do what you want them to do on screen is another task altogether. However, Mara Wilson as Matilda was great casting. Wilson, only nine at the time, managed to step into Matilda’s shoes with considerable ease. Her first triumph of trying to move an object was represented with innocent childlike enthusiasm, and her sense of young, righteous anger couldn’t help but make you cheer her on.
In an interview a couple of years ago, director-actor Danny DeVito had mentioned he still cherished the hope of making one more Matilda movie, possibly with Mara Wilson’s child — “I always wanted to do ‘Matilda 2’, but when the kid was still a kid, but that was like 20 years ago, 25 years ago. Maybe Matilda has a kid, and we can do something [with] that, I don’t know.”
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Well, we might not get a new Matilda movie, but we are certainly getting more of Roald Dahl’s world. A film called Wonka based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory character is being bankrolled by David Heyman, Luke Kelly and Alexandra Derbyshire. The Paul King musical will see the talented Timothee Chalamet in the lead role. Magical times beckon!