Matilda (Mara Wilson) is a frustrated little girl. Her parents, played by Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman, began neglecting her early in life (starting by tossing baby Matilda into the back of their car like a suitcase while driving home from the hospital). As she grows through her first six years, she discovers that reading provides an escape from her nasty parents, and the educational pastime quickly allows her to become smarter than anyone else in her family.
Her formal education begins at Crunchem Hall, a horrible school with a miserable principal named Trunchbul (Pam Ferris). Prisoner of war camps have more joy! The grey building provides the ultimate exaggeration of the school experience. Principal Trunchbul dislikes one girl's pigtails, so she picks the child up by the hair and throws her like an Olympic hammer. The girl lands nicely, sliding through a field of flowers well beyond the school playground. Another obese child is accused of eating Trunchbul's chocolate cake, and is force-fed a huge cake in front of a school assembly.
The movie is touted as family fun, but parents will want to be careful about showing Matilda to the under eight crowd. In the end, everyone goes home happy and Matilda bonds with the sweet Miss Honey (Embeth Davidtz), a loving teacher at the school. But along the way the major problems faced are only solved when Matilda uses her "special" powers, resulting in many violent portrayls.
There is a fine line between sarcasm and depicted reality, and I think it is difficult for children to differentiate between the two. Maybe DeVito's hope as a director is that any child will think they are better off than Matilda. Still, just as many children may see their own situation as hopeless because they don't have Matilda's telekinetic gifts. While parents will need to be the ultimate judge of the appropriateness of this movie for their children, I personally feel we have had enough scripts featuring genius kids, dumb parents, and inept teachers.