I recently watched the screen adaptation of Roald Dahl's 1988 classic, Matilda. Danny DeVito directs, stars, and narrates the film. It feels a bit off to have the narrator and a character have the same voice, especially when they have polar opposite views of Matilda.
I have vague memories of reading this book during middle school. I don't recall relating too much to the main character; I wasn't a latch-key kid, nor did I spend much time reading. If I related more to the book then, this movie may have landed better. Matilda, the book, was one of my significant other's favorite books growing up. She enjoyed the re-visit to the film ahead of our date to see the musical version. Based on her recollection and my vague memories, the movie does a good job staying true to the book.
This is one of the first movies that I have reviewed that relied on 1990s visual gags. I believe most of the effects are practical as opposed to CGI. While you can't see any wires, it is clear that they were used. Creating magic on screen has become much easier in the 23 years since this film came out. The effects are admirable for their time.
This movie came out five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Perhaps I was projecting it, but I got a strong East German vibe from Trunchbull. The movie does a fantastic job of showing how horrible and terrifying she is. From her physical size to the closeup shots of her rotting teeth, DeVito does a great job of bringing Trunchbull from page to screen. even the camera angles are unsettling when Trunchbull is around. As a result I had a visceral reaction every time Trunchbull appeared on the screen. To counteract all of this evil nastiness Miss Honey is a sweet addition to the cast. Her motherly disposition gives you hope throughout the movie of a better life for Matilda. It is a big role to offset not just Trunchbull but the rest of Matilda's family.
There were multiple times during the movie that I caught myself getting upset. That is the mark of an above-average movie. Roald Dahl's work is best enjoyed first by reading. This film is an excellent follow up to a wonderful page-turner.