Details At A Glance

Category Children's Theatrical Trailer(s) No
Rating Other Trailer(s) 1
Running Time 95 minutes Commentary Tracks None
RSDL/Flipper No/No Other Extras None
Region 4    
Distributor Columbia Tristar    
RRP $34.95    

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
English (MPEG 5.1)
English (MPEG 2.0 )
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1    
Macrovision Yes    
Subtitles English 

Plot Synopsis

    Matilda is the story of Matilda Wormwood (Mara Wilson), the daughter of Harry and Zinnia Wormwood (Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman). Matilda is based on a story by Roald Dahl, and exhibits his somewhat twisted view of life as a child. Matilda is a very intelligent and talented girl, but this fact is not appreciated by her parents. She quickly learns that she must fend for herself, and spends most of her time reading books. When she finishes the books in the house, she finds her way to the library and reads books there. Eventually, she discovers a library card, and she is able to bring library books home to read. something which does not sit well with the Wormwood family, who are strictly TV-watching folk. Matilda begins to discover her remarkable powers when the family are watching television and she is forced to watch - she wills the TV to blow up and it does.

    Matilda is very anxious to go to school, but her parents are not particularly interested. One day, Harry Wormwood, who is a very crooked used car salesman, sells a car to Miss Trunchbull (Pam Ferris), the headmistress of Crunchem Hall, a school from hell. Harry does a deal with Miss Trunchbull, and Matilda finally gets to go to school. Crunchem Hall features such delights as the "chokey", which is somewhat like an iron maiden which children are locked in when Miss Trunchbull takes a disliking to them, which is not very hard since she hates children.

    Fortunately, Miss Honey is also at this school, and is Matilda's teacher. Miss Honey quickly realizes that Matilda is unusually intelligent, and discusses this with both Miss Trunchbull and Matilda's parents, neither of whom are impressed by this - Miss Honey: "Matilda can multiply big numbers", Miss Trunchbull: "So can a calculator".

    Soon, Miss Trunchbull's car begins to play up, which she blames Matilda for, and so Matilda is locked in the chokey whilst Miss Trunchbull is inspecting Matilda's class. Matilda is freed, and as a result of this, we see the second display of Matilda's powers, wherein a newt finds its way onto Miss Trunchbull.

    Next we learn that Miss Honey is Miss Trunchbull's step niece, and they live next door to each other. We also learn that Miss Honey's father died in mysterious circumstances, leaving all of his money and his home to Miss Trunchbull. We further learn that several of Miss Honey's treasures, including a doll, are trapped inside Miss Trunchbull's home. Matilda and Miss Honey sneak into Miss Trunchbull's house to retrieve these treasures, but are interrupted by Miss Trunchbull returning home. Fortunately, they manage to escape.

    Matilda now develops her powers of telekinesis further, until they are second nature to her. She acquires the doll from Miss Trunchbull's home, and does a little haunting of Miss Trunchbull. Unfortunately, her hair ribbon is left behind, and Miss Trunchbull finds it.

    We now come to the climax of the movie, where Miss Trunchbull confronts Matilda's class and all sorts of havoc occurs. The net effect of this is that Miss Trunchbull leaves town, Miss Honey gets her home back, and Miss Honey gets to be the principal of Crunchem Hall, which is transformed into a nice school. Finally, to round things off, the Wormwoods are forced to flee the country since the FBI are after them, but Matilda gets to stay with Miss Honey and live happily ever after.

Transfer Quality


    This is a superb DVD transfer. It is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced. I note that this is a Pan & Scan release in Region 1, so this is a rare one-up on Region 1 for Region 4.

    The movie is razor sharp throughout. Shadow detail is always excellent. There is not even a hint of noise in the signal at any time.

    The colour is bright and clear throughout. This movie is shot with a lot of highly saturated primary and secondary colours (reds, greens, yellows) and these colours never bleed or show noise artefacts. They are always crisp and well delineated from the rest of the picture.

    No MPEG artefacts were seen. There are a number of scenes with dense green foliage, which I have found to be the scenes most prone to MPEG artefacts, but I could not fault this transfer in these scenes. A few minor artefacts were seen in the middle of the movie - these would be of no consequence except for the fact that they tended to be mid-frame and thus a little more noticeable. They were not a major concern, however.


    There are several audio tracks on this DVD. The default audio is MPEG 2.0 channel, surround encoded. Also present are a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack (which I listened to) and an MPEG 5.1 soundtrack, all in English.

    Dialogue was always clear and completely intelligible, and never drowned out by the music.

    The music was always clear. There wasn't a great deal of it, and what was there complemented the movie, but otherwise it was a pretty much run-of-the-mill soundtrack.

    The surround channels were rarely used for the first third of the movie until the scene involving Bruce Bogtrotter eating chocolate cake, after which they were used for some of the music and for some rare atmospheric sound effects. Overall, the soundfield tended to be up front rather than enveloping. The .1 channel did very little during this movie.


    There are no extras on this disc except for the standard Columbia Tristar teaser trailer, which on this DVD had only an MPEG audio track, rather than a Dolby Digital 2.0 track.


    Matilda is an enjoyable children's story with excellent visual effects which almost always integrate very well into the movie. As adults, I bet we can all relate to our school days and remember when we wished we could do the things that Matilda can do. A few of the effects look patently fake, such as one of a child being thrown out of a window by Miss Trunchbull and Matilda making him fly around and then back in, but this is more the exception rather than the rule.

    The video quality is very good, up there with the best of the Columbia Tristar releases. This transfer would have got a reference quality rating except for the fact that there were a few minor film artefacts in the mid part of the movie. The audio quality is unremarkable - nothing particularly wrong with it, but nothing particularly notable about it. It was mostly an up-front soundtrack rather than an enveloping soundtrack.

Ratings (out of 5)

Extras nil

Michael Demtschyna
19th September 1998

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-505, using S-Video output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 16:9 mode, via the S-Video input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Amplification 2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Yamaha B100-115SE subwoofer