Entertainment: +2 1/2
Acceptability: -1/2

This comedy for youngsters turns out to be a rather harsh, depressing story about the rough treatment of school children at a private school as well as the principal who mistreats them. One of the children is exceptionally bright six-year-old Matilda Wormwood (Mara Wilson), who has been enrolled in the school by her harsh, self-centered father (Danny DeVito) and dense, negligent mother (Rhea Perlman). Matilda finds that the school, with its hulking, belligerent, abusive principal, Agatha Trunchbull (Pam Ferris), is a veritable nightmare. But she also finds a friend in her gentle, caring first grade teacher, Miss Honey (Embeth Davidtz). Throughout the film, Ms. Trunchbull terrifies the children with her abusive harsh language and treatment, including actual physical harm. To cope with both her unhappy home and school life, Matilda draws on the friendship with Miss Honey, but also discovers she has amazing telekinetic powers to move objects. She uses these abilities to defend herself and her school friends. Some children may find all the action and excitement in the film entertaining, but others will view the principal's abusive behavior as disturbing and not so funny. Considering current social trends, a movie about abusive parents and school principals seems like a poor choice.

The ruthless treatment by the principal never lets up, and on two occasions she picks young girls up by their pigtails, twirls them around and throws them long distances. She also picks up two boys and throws them out the window, and holds up another boy and drops him on the floor. Eventually, the children turn on her and viciously attack her. Much of this violence is excessive and exploitative. The kindness and concern of Miss Honey is about the only bright spot in the story. To its credit, the dialogue has only one mild crude word and one exclamatory profanity. There is no sex or nudity in the film, although Matilda's mother wears low-cut dresses. Matilda's powers apparently are not meant to be occultic, but fantasy, although the source of her power is not clear. There are much more desirable children's films than this harsh film with its occultic overtones.

Preview Reviewer: John Evans
Distributor: TriStar Pictures, 10202 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232

Crude Language: Once - Mild
Obscene Language: None
Profanity: Once - Exclamatory (Oh My God)
Violence: Many times - Moderate and Severe (Children constantly treated and spoken to harshly, thrown long distances, boy dropped on floor, boy forced to eat entire cake, principal bombarded with erasers and other objects, property destruction)
Sexual Intercourse: None
Nudity: None; Near nudity - Few times (low-cut dresses)
Homosexual Conduct: None
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: None
Drug Abuse: Man drinks beer
Other: Girl has telekinetic powers, source not clear
Running Time: Unknown
Intended Audience: Ages 5 through 12

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