(especially for kids)

If you're going to make a children's film then why not start with MATILDA (a kids' film, great for adults)

Equally Grimm as the Brothers' tales are the stories of Roald Dahl. Here's another one to keep the kids awake at night; as well as being a reflection on the all too common daytime existence of children and their sometimes hopeless parents. Harry and Zinnia Wormwood (Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman) are so wrapped up in themselves and their money that they don't have time to be be bothered about the incomprehensible fascination their daughter Matilda (Mara Wilson) has with books. Finally, deciding to give in (for all the wrong reasons) to Matilda's odd wish to attend school, they send her to Crunchem Hall, where Matilda winds up under the austere rule of child-hating principal Agatha Trunchbull (Pam Ferris).

Thank heavens for Miss Honey (Embeth Davidtz), the teacher with a warm heart who understands and looks after Matilda, giving her a sense of hope while receiving a gift of courage in return. Miss Honey eventually shares the secret of Matilda's special power that enables her to turn the tables on wicked grown- ups. The Dahl novel from which the film was adapted was found by the Queen of England to be "quite, quite delicious."

Actor DaVito, who also directed and produced the film, might have been wiser to choose another voice than his own for the opening and closing narration. It is, to say the least, odd to recognize the voice of Harry Wormwood as the storyteller. (It might not have been a bad idea to borrow Ian Holm, who did the narration for BBC-TV's Roald Dahl's Little Red Riding Hood for which DaVito dubbed the voice of Wolfie.) Nevertheless, this jostling note diffuses itself quickly in a film that has DaVito flair, love of life and lots of warmth. Everybody is bound to enjoy it.

Superb points to Pam Ferris for her remarkable performance as Miss Trunchbull. You wouldn't recognize her under all that make-up and expression. Director DaVito, who had quite a search before finding a suitable actress for the role, describes the character as "the evil headmistress -- our Tyrannosaurus Rex. The Trunchbull is about as big and mean as they come: an ex-Olympic athlete at hammer-throw, shot-put and javelin -- a giantess. Don't sit in the front row, that's all I can say. She walks around with a riding crop, throws kids over fences, sends 'em flying." Pam Ferris is perfection. Commenting on the role herself, she says, "Ah, yes, throwing them. It's a special skill, throwing children. I don't think it's something Trunchbull would put in a manual for parents, because of the skills involved. But it works for her, you know."

Superb points for the wonderfully expressive, yet subtle make-up designs of Ve Neill. Special mention for the work of production designer Bill Brzeski and set decorator Jennifer Polito Gaulke, especially for creating that marvelous domain the Wormwoods call home.

Still want to know about Matilda's secret powers? Go see the film. Here's a hint: the story could've been titled 'Carrie comes home'.

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett