[Screen It]


(1996) (Mara Wilson, Danny DeVito) (PG)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Mild None Heavy Mild *Minor
Moderate None Mild None *Minor
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
*Minor None Mild Moderate Moderate

Childrens: A little girl must adapt to her above normal intelligence, a mean nasty school principle, and her new telekinetic powers.
Matilda (MARA WILSON) is a super intelligent little girl who just wants to soak in as much knowledge as she can. Unfortunately she was born into the Wormwood family consisting of father Harry (DANNY DeVITO) a shady used car salesman, mother Zinnia (RHEA PERLMAN) the bingo addict, and bothersome brother Michael. The Wormwood's don't have much time for reading and writing (since there are so many better things on TV -- in front of which they always eat dinner) and don't even allow Matilda to go to school. That is, until Harry sells a lemon to Miss Trunchbull (PAM FERRIS), the principal of Crunchem Hall elementary. Matilda enrolls there and finds Trunchbull, the former Olympian, to be a cross between a pit bull and a tyrant who claims "In this school, I am God." The other students are terrified of Trunchbull and Matilda finds a kindly soul in the form of her teacher, Ms. Honey (EMBETH DAVIDTZ). Matilda also finds another ally -- her telekinetic mind. She learns that she can control the movement of things with it, and then sets out to make things right at Crunchem Hall.
Yes. The commercials make it look fun and kids will recognize Mara Wilson from "Mrs. Doubtfire." It's a sure bet younger kids will want to see this one.
For elements of exaggerated meanness and ridicule, and for some mild language.
  • MARA WILSON plays an absolutely charming little girl who decides to stand up for the "little guys" (ie. the other students and Ms. Honey) against their tyrannical principal. She also yearns for knowledge, loves to read and wants a loving family. She's a good role model.
  • DANNY DEVITO and RHEA PERLMAN play two self absorbed parents who don't care about their kids. Granted they are caricatures of real people, but still they're bad people.
  • PAM FERRIS plays the tyrannical principal who hates kids and does many mean, nasty and violent things to them.
  • EMBETH DAVIDTZ plays the caring, loving and compassionate teacher who also recognizes the importance of education. She's a good role model.


    OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
    An absolute joy to watch, this film will entertain adults as well as children. DeVito (as the director) has always made entertaining films and with this one he hits the jackpot. Presented in an almost surreal fashion, the film is comic book-ish enough that the violence in it and Trunchbull's attitude toward children isn't as harsh as it might sound in the descriptions below. Mara Wilson is fabulous as the title character, combining both adult and childhood observations into one little girl. The sequence when she really starts to control her powers and dances around to a snappy tune is just plain, fun to watch. Ferris plays a marvelously bad principal/former Olympian who goes over the top with her performance. Kids will love the film and we give it an 7 out of 10.
    As stated above, the details below might make the movie sound more harsh and brutal than what the sum of its parts creates. Yes, the principal does horrible things to the children and if it was presented in a serious fashion, it would be a terrible, shocking, R rated film. Instead, all of it is presented in a "fun house" type fashion where, yes the principal is scary and the parents are non-caring, but most kids will realize that it's all make believe. Very young kids might not get the point, however, and might be terrified that such a principal exists in real life and that one day they'll have to go to a school where such people roam the hallways. There are few behaviors that could be imitated that you might want to discuss with your kids (throwing food at the principal, putting superglue in someone's hat, etc...). Overall, however, most kids will enjoy this and with some parental input, it is a nearly harmless film.

  • Harry and Zinnia are occasionally seen drinking beer and in one scene Harry asks his son to throw him a beer and he does -- from a beer filled cooler in the living room.
  • None.
  • Both the Wormwood's and Miss Trunchbull don't like kids and see them as pests and "snot nosed" nuisances.
  • The Wormwood's are non-caring parents and do the following to Matilda:
  • They complain about how much it cost for her to be born, they let her slide around in her carseat in the back of their station wagon, and then forget to take her inside when they get home.
  • They leave Matilda at home where she has to cook for herself and walks ten blocks to the city library by herself -- at the age of four.
  • They don't let Matilda go to school, not just because they think that education is overrated, but because they need her at home to sign for all of the packages of stolen goods that Harry has delivered to the house. And they tell her "Why read when you can watch TV?"
  • Harry calls Matilda a liar and a cheat when she quickly and correctly adds up several numbers.
  • Harry tells Matilda "I'm big, you're small. I'm smart, you're dumb," and "I'm right and you're wrong and there's nothing you can do about it."
  • Harry is a used car salesman who not only jacks up the prices of the lemons he sells, but he also buys stolen parts and then cuts corners in making repairs to the cars he sells. For instance he superglues bumpers to cars, puts sawdust in the transmission to make the car run smooth "for a couple of miles" and he rolls back the odometers.
  • Zinnia is a bingo addict and cares more about that and talking to her friends on the phone, than say, Matilda's first day at school.
  • Matilda retaliates against her father after he's been mean to her. In one scene she substitutes peroxide for his normal hair tonic (causing his hair to go bleach blond), and in another she puts crazy glue into his hat (with predictable results).
  • After their TV has blown up, Harry responds to Zinnia, "It's not a cheap set, it's a stolen set."
  • Miss Trunchbull is mean and nasty toward her students (for more details see "Violence") and doesn't like them in general. She states that her idea of a good school is one where there are no children. She has many rules for the kids including "If you're having fun, you're not learning." She also won't allow a little girl to wear ponytails.
  • Trunchbull makes a student sit and not leave his seat until he's eaten an extraordinary amount of chocolate cake.
  • One of the students puts a newt into Trunchbull's drinking water.
  • Trunchbull kicks a cat across her yard.
  • Two FBI agents, observing Harry's illegal activity, let themselves into the Wormwood's garage and one of them states that they don't need a warrant to search the place.
  • Some kids may find the scenes where Trunchbull confronts, terrorizes and bullies the students as frightening and/or tense. She is a very large, intimidating, loud and occasionally violent person, so little kids who don't see the cartoon nature of her behavior might be terrified of her.
  • There's a prolonged chase and hide scene where Matilda and Miss Honey have snuck into Trunchbull's home (where Miss Honey was raised) and Trunchbull returns and then begins to hunt down the intruders. There are several close calls and Trunchbull appears to have much vengeance to discharge on the "intruders" when and if she finds them. She almost resembles a monster in a sci-fi story that is hunting down its prey. The chase covers all floors of the house and Matilda and Miss Honey finally escape through a basement window.
  • Matilda causes "ghostly-like" things to happen in Trunchbull's home (we know what's happening, but Trunchbull doesn't) and younger kids might not understand why the lights are going on and off, the windows opening and closing, and why a painting floats across the room.
  • Miss Trunchbull uses a ball and chain (normally used in the Olympic "hammer throw") to chase after the intruders (Matilda and Miss Honey) in her home. She also uses it to smash a statue out on her lawn.
  • Miss Trunchbull uses a large carving knife to cut a piece of cake for a student she's punishing. She holds the knife in a close to his face, dangerous way and the other kids gasp at what she's going to do with it. She ends up serving the cake to the student with it, and then stabbing it down into the table before him.
  • Matilda pulls several retaliatory practical jokes on her father. She switches his hair tonic with peroxide (causing his hair to go blond) and in another scene she puts crazy glue in his hat and then watches him put it on (and for many hours try to take it off).
  • Phrases: "Dodo's," "Dip face," "Twit" "Your mother is a twit," "Puke," "Shut up," "You lying little earwig," "Squirming worm of vomit," "You villainous sack of goat slime," and "Piss worm."
  • At the age of four, Matilda is seen making her own pancakes, including using a hot skillet, something most parents won't want their kids doing.
  • There are two burping scenes.
  • The Wormwoods view of education: "Why read books when you can watch TV?" and "A girl won't get anywhere acting intelligent."
  • A student forced to eat a great amount of cake by Trunchbull eats some of it with his hands and some of it just with his mouth right off the plate.
  • One of the students drops a newt into Trunchbull's drinking water.
  • Trunchbull kicks a cat across the yard and since it landed seemingly unharmed, kids might think this is an okay thing to do.
  • Matilda climbs up onto Trunchbull's garage roof to spy on her with binoculars while doing her telekinetic magic on her.
  • Trunchbull spits onto a hair ribbon on the floor.
  • Matilda telekinetically causes food to be thrown at Trunchbull and then all of the other kids join in and throw lots of food and toilet paper rolls at her.
  • None.
  • Several of the scenes with Trunchbull and the students are accompanied by mildly tense music.
  • The chase and hide scene (see "Frightening/Tense Scenes") has moderately suspenseful music.
  • None.
  • 1 hell, and 1 use each of "God," and "Oh my God," as exclamations.
  • Matilda is reading the book, "Moby Dick," and when she mentions the title, Harry thinks it's a dirty book and tears it up.
  • Zinnia is overheard talking on the phone saying "What did she expect, the baby wasn't his," and "they have to be implants."
  • None.
  • Matilda's parents don't care about her, and when they do interact with her, it's usually to yell at her for not being like them. Matilda doesn't like this and does get mad at them. She finally convinces (it doesn't take much) them to sign papers allowing Miss Honey to adopt her.
  • Miss Honey recounts a story about a little two-year-old girl whose mother died and a mean nasty aunt that came to live with her. She then says that the father killed himself when she was five and that from that time forward, the little girl had to live under the tyranny of Aunt Trunchbull --yes, the little girl was Miss Honey.
  • Two FBI agents observing Harry tell Matilda that her father's going to go to prison and that she'll be sent to an orphanage.
  • That all of what kids will see in this movie is make believe and meant to be seen that way.
  • That school principals won't behave like Miss Trunchbull toward them, and there's no reason to be afraid to go to school.
  • How good it was that Matilda liked to learn and read so many books.
  • Telekinetic powers and whether one has them or can get them.
    (The following scenes are being listed at face value, although some are not meant to be taken that way.)
  • Matilda's brother throws marshmallows at her.
  • Harry pulls Matilda away from the table by grabbing her ear.
  • Zinnia tries to pull off Harry's hat that's been superglued to his head. As they struggle in a restaurant they bump into other diners and then cause a desert tray and it's contents to go flying through the air.
  • Harry tears up a copy of the book "Moby Dick" after Matilda mentions the title and he thinks it's a dirty book.
  • Matilda causes the TV to blow up after her father yells at her and holds her head to make her watch it.
  • A student recalls the time (and we see it in flashback) where Trunchbull picked up a student over her head and then threw him out the window (he's not hurt).
  • The students are terrified of "the chokee" a small, cramped room where "bad" students are sent and only have room to stand while avoiding the sharp, pointy items sticking out from the walls.
  • Trunchbull picks up a little girl by her ponytails, spins her around by them, and then throws her out the window. She sails across the lawn and nearly lands on the spiked fence but instead slides to a halt in a flower garden, unhurt.
  • Trunchbull is throwing darts at pictures of children on her door and nearly hits Miss Honey with one of them when she comes in.
  • Trunchbull crashes a large glass cake plate down onto a student's head, shattering the glass.
  • Trunchbull drags Matilda into the "chokee" and slams the door shut. (Kids will worry about her - but she's rescued by Miss Honey).
  • Trunchbull is seen holding a boy upside down by his foot (in order to empty his pockets), and then drops him on the floor.
  • Trunchbull, superstitious of black cats, is confronted by one. She tries to back away, but when it doesn't leave she gives it a swift kick across the yard (where it lands unharmed).
  • Threat: After the car Harry sold Trunchbull dies, she gets on the phone and threatens, "I'm gonna burn down your showroom."
  • Threat: Harry is mad at Matilda and yells at her, "Shut up, or I'll come in there and pound your miserable hide."
  • Trunchbull throws a javelin into her wall (I guess she's practicing for another try at the Olympics).
  • Trunchbull violently slides the student's desks across the room and into a wall as she gets all of the students to line up in front of her.
  • Trunchbull tells Miss Honey (her niece), "I've broken your arm before, I can do it again."
  • Matilda causes Trunchbull to be hit with many chalkboard erasers until she collapses (faking it) on the floor. Trunchbull then grabs and picks up a student and throws him out the window. Matilda gets control of him with her mind and flies him around the school yard and then back into the classroom where he knocks Trunchbull over onto a large globe. Matilda then causes the globe to spin around sending Trunchbull careening into a wall. Trunchbull then tries to run over another student but she misses and crashes through a door. Matilda then causes food to pelt Trunchbull and the other students then join in throwing food and toilet paper rolls at her until she runs away and never returns.

  • Reviewed August 2, 1996

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