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See The world from a kid's-eye view with Matilda, a modern fairy tale that mixes hilarious humbor with the magical message of love.
For more about Matilda and the Matilda Blu-ray release, see Matilda Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on December 8, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Mara Wilson, Embeth Davidtz, Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Pam Ferris, Paul Reubens
Narrator: Danny DeVito
Director: Danny DeVito
» See full cast & crew
Matilda Blu-ray Review
Matilda, meet Carrie. Carrie, Matilda.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, December 8, 2013
Quickly: name the movie about a girl who uses her telekinetic powers to get even with the people who have done her wrong. Chances are many would respond with Carrie, Director Brian De Palma filmed adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name. The second most common answer, and probably tops amongst families with younger children (or children of the 1990s), would be Matilda, the touching Danny DeVito-directed charmer about a mistreated girl and the somewhat disturbing but mostly comical antics that follow her mental maturation and the development of her telekinetic powers. Indeed, Matilda feels like Carrie for a younger audience. It, too, is based on a book, this one penned by British Author Roald Dahl and published in 1988. It's not quite as dark and powerful as De Palma's film, but it's mostly a joyous, innocent, likable little film with simple moral objectives and a fun, family-friend vibe. It's not a perfect movie, but it's perfectly suitable for most viewers and a fine little film that will please the entire family.
The Wormwood family -- greasy used car salesman father Harry (Danny DeVito), mother Zinnia (Rhea Perlman), and son Michael (Brian Levinson) -- have just welcomed a new member to the family: Matilda (Mara Wilson). Perhaps "welcome" is too strong a word. She's not taken home from the hospital for love but rather for obligation. She's seen as a burden, not a gift. She's mistreated, left home alone, and ignored unless her parents deem that she's done something wrong, like express a desire to read a book. She cares for herself and develops an intelligence and a hunger for literature at a young age. When she grows old enough to attend school, she's not enrolled. She sneaks out to the library and reads everything she can find. Her parents believe reading to be a waste of her time, which would be better spent in front of the television. When Harry sells a used car to a woman named Trunchbull (Pam Ferris), he learns that she runs a school for children Matilda's age. Matilda is quickly enrolled but discovers the school is more a prison and less a learning environment. She's welcomed by her peers and her kindly teacher, Miss Honey (Embeth Davidtz), but must contend with parents who do not care for her and a principal in Trunchbull who would rather see her fail than encourage success. When things get out of control, Matilda must turn to unusual means of saving herself from the coming of a wasted existence.
There are two sides to the Matilda coin, and it's in how well they mesh together that the film finds most of its dramatic and comedic success. The film is certainly one of extremes. There's the ultra-smart Matilda and the incredibly polite Miss Honey, both allied with a group of mostly cheery students who want only to learn and interact in a clean, welcoming education environment. They're contrasted against Matilda's family and Miss Trunchbull, the former more or less just like the Dursley family from the Harry Potter series and the latter a frightening hybrid, perhaps best thought of as the drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket combined with some hulking PED-absusing olympic amazonian. In essence, it's sugar and spice and everything nice against the most sour, fouled, spiteful, and hateful bunch humanity has to offer, but without losing its family-friendly spirit amongst them. The film does a fine job of contrasting the two, particularly the villains, with an almost grossly over-the-top series of exaggerations, frightening close-ups, and heavily stylized shots, decorations, and colors. Director Danny DeVito makes it incredibly easy to cheer on Matilda and Miss Honey and wish for the worst for Trunchbull and the Wormwood family.
Yet what are the film's blessings are also its curses. There are several scenes that play it a bit too far, that linger too long, that go to gross excess to reinforce a point that's already been made, and usually on more than one occasion. Some of those Trunchbull close-ups, for example, show off the fine makeup work but can be rather frightening, not as reinforcements of the character's demeanor but in that the character just isn't pretty to look at in such extremes. Several scenes play out for far too long, too, including the famous "cake eating" scene. There's certainly no nuance lost in the movie; it's all exposed and laid on the table in every scene, for better or for worse, thankfully primarily for the former. The film is also simplistically predictable almost to a fault, but then again the point isn't mystery but rather arriving at the inevitable happy ending. The entire film is built to satisfy a fundamental urge for peace and tranquility following stress and hardship, both of which are piled on but, ultimately, worth the slog of structural repetitiveness and terrifying close-ups when everything winds up hunky-dory in the end.
Matilda Blu-ray, Video Quality
Matilda looks terrific on Blu-ray. Sony's presentation really brings home the intense colors the film has to offer, not to mention its film-pure details. The picture is robustly and richly colorful, presenting a wide spectrum of vivid, but never gaudy, shades on the screen. There's a veritable rainbow of colors to be enjoyed in an overhead shot of the Wormwood used car lot, for example, while dresses, flowers, exterior greenery, and the decidedly 1970s-inspired shades inside the Wormwood home all look magnificent. The image is clean and reveals a light, balanced, and consistent grain layer. Details are splendid across the board. Skin textures -- from the clean, smooth Miss Honey to the hardened, worn-down Trunchbull -- appear naturally detailed in every scene. Image clarity is striking, and every object around the film's main locations -- two houses and in the school's classroom and auditorium -- look magnificent. Black levels are even and skin tones natural. The image suffers from no perceptible compression problems. This is a stellar presentation from Sony.
Matilda Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Matilda's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack is a match in quality for its video counterpart. Musical clarity and stage presence rate highly, and the track provides robust details throughout the range, including a fine low end accompaniment. Detail can be so natural that Matilda's squealing, screeching parents occasionally play through the speakers almost too obnoxiously, but the track's ability to so perfectly recreate their cadence only reinforces the film's style. General dialogue enjoys quality balance, while a few school auditorium scenes feature a quality reverberation. Additionally, several nice ambient effects are included, such as a gusty wind effect in chapter 13. Heavier effects enjoy prominent and even bass, particularly a few heavy Trunchbull footfalls. This is a fine track in every area of concern.
Matilda Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Matilda contains several vintage supplements as well as a new cast reunion supplement.
Matilda Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Matilda is a sweet and charming little movie about the power of hope, of kindness, of a desire to make things better rather than settle for whatever life seems to have in store. It's also, in a way, a frightening portrait of neglect, abuse, and misunderstanding. The film sometimes feels needlessly exaggerated but nevertheless cannot escape the innate charm and the satisfaction that comes with its final act. Though it might be a bit frightening for the youngest viewers, Matilda makes for rather clean family entertainment. Sony's Blu-ray release features standout video, solid audio, and a few good extras. Recommended.
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