In an age where children are claiming the right to divorce their parents, the last thing we need is a Roald Dahl story polluting little minds with the tale of a girl living in a family that doesn't appreciate her.
Matilda Wormwood is smarter than her father (Danny DeVito), her mother (Rhea Perlman) and her brother. While her family sits around and watches bad television, Matilda reads Charles Dickens. When Matilda wants to go to school her parents say no at first, but then discover Crunchem Hall, which is run by Miss Trunchbull (Pam Ferris), a monster of a principal who tosses kids around like she used to toss the shot put and hammer in the 1972 Olympics. Matilda's sole inspiration for learning is her teacher, Miss Honey (Embeth Davidtz), who is also tortured by Miss Trunchbull's brutality.
In casting the cutest little girl on the planet, Mara ("Mrs. Doubtfire") Wilson, in the title role, the filmmakers disingenuously guarantee sympathy for their protagonist. As we all know, cute little girls deserve all the good things that life has to offer. Ugly kids deserve to be thrown into microwave ovens and barbecued until they explode.
In fact, what Mara Wilson needs -- and I think the Moral Majority would agree -- is a good belt-whippin'. In addition to not being much of a father, Mr. Wormwood isn't a very effective disciplinarian. One would think that with his amoral attitude toward child-rearing, he would have been less apt to listen to little Matilda's complaints about the television and more likely to undo his belt and start smacking her around in the name of "parental rights."
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