Released in theaters during the summer of 1996, Matilda was aimed squarely at the 8 to12 crowd. However, since it was based on the Roald Dahl book of the same name, it comes as no surprise that the film is filled with elements designed to appeal to adults. One of the best Roald Dahl screen adaptations yet, Matilda is a black comedy designed to appeal to viewers of all ages.

A tale of self-empowerment for kids, Matilda Wormwood (Mara Wilson) is a highly intelligent girl trapped in a family of buffoons. Her mom and dad (DeVito and real-life spouse Rhea Perlman) are so caught up in their lives they barely notice Matilda’s burgeoning genius. Now six-and-a-half years old, by the time she was just four, she had read every magazine in the house and started taking daily walks to the library to read classic novels such as Moby Dick and The Pickwick Papers. She can also do complex calculations in her head.

While Matilda’s parents are described as living “in a very nice neighborhood in a very nice house,” they are said to be not very nice people. Mr. Wormwood is a used car salesman with the FBI agents tracking his every move, and Mrs. Wormwood is obsessed with bingo parlors and television game shows. Both parents pay little attention to their daughter. If they do, it’s usually to chastise her reading novels, acting smart, or wanting to tell the truth. Both parents are less than impressed at her apparent intelligence, even after she shows signs of possessing some remarkable powers.

In time, Mr. Wormwood notices Matilda enough to decide to send her off to Crunchem Hall, an elementary school lorded over by the nasty Miss Trunchbull (Pam Ferris), whose motto is “Use the rod, beat the child.”She takes great pleasure in punishing the children at every turn. Fortunately for Matilda, her kind-hearted first grade teacher, Miss Honey (Embeth Davidtz), immediately recognizes her students amazing abilities.

Maura Wilson proved herself to be one of the cutest, most enjoyable child actors of the mid to late 1990’s with roles in Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) and the 1994 remake of Miracle on 34th Street. As Matilda Wormwood she’s charming without being too cutesy. She has a natural charisma, which made her the perfect choice for the always optimistic bookworm. Wilson makes us care about Matilda from the moment she appears on screen.

Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman are effective in what are cartoonish roles. Embeth Davidtz embodies sweetness and shows her vulnerability throughout. Pam Ferris seems to enjoy every moment as the nasty to bone Ms. Trunchbull, sinking her teeth into each and every vile act. Paul Reubens (aka Pee-Wee Herman) turns up as one of FBI agent’s tracking Mr. Wormwood.

Roald Dahl never believed that children wanted to be talked down to, and the script by Nicholas Kazan and Robin Swicord sticks to those principles. While some of the black humor will likely go over the heads of the youngest viewers, they’ll likely be too involved in the story to notice.

Presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio, Sony’s 1080p transfer features nice, crisp detail and noticeable depth throughout. Contrast is well balanced allowing for a pleasing image, and bright colors. Flesh tones are slightly washed out, but well delineated. Blacks aren’t remarkable, but dark enough to make their presence known. Grain is intact and appears natural throughout. There are no digital anomalies, making Matilda a solid Blu-ray transfer.

The DTS-HD Master Audio mix presents the soundtrack nicely. This is a dialogue heavy film that benefits from the lossless sound. The few instances that include only music or other audio are cleanly reproduced and free of issues. The front soundstage is a bit narrow, but opens up well during several sequences. There isnt much in the way of surround sound, but upper level bass adds some nice ambiance.

English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Polish, Swedish, and Thai subtitles are available.

The following extras are included:

  • NEW/Exclusive: Afternoon Tea, A very magical Matilda Reunion (HD, 21:01) Danny DeVito hosts this reunion where many of the cast and crew discuss their experiences making the film. They even re-enact some of the more iconic scenes, which is a surprising treat.
  • Matilda’s Movie Magic (SD, 16:14) A brief look at the film’s special effects.
  • A Children’s Guide to Good Manners (SD, 3:12) Using clips from the film, a guide to manners for kids.
  • Escape to the Library (SD, 5:48) In another clipfest, the case is made for the use of libraries.
  • My Movie about Making Matilda by Maura Wilson (SD, 6:27) Young Wilson’s view on the making of the film.
  • UltraViolet Digital Copy.