The family cult favorite Matilda, based on the children’s book by Roal Dahl, arrives on 4K UHD Blu-ray from Sony with a new transfer and Dolby Atmos mix.
The Production: 4/5
Poor Matilda Wormwood (Mara Wilson). Her father (Danny DeVito) is a very dishonest, even criminal, used car salesman. Her mother (Rhea Perlman) is cruel and self-absorbed. Her brother Michael (Brian Levinson) is a brat who wants to grow up to be just like his father. The three of them see Matilda as a burden and an outcast, a girl more interested in going to school and reading books well beyond her age level. When she is caught reading Moby Dick instead of watching an insipid game show on television, her father rips it to shreds, despite it being from the public library. Fed up with her unwillingness to fit in, her parents enroll her in Crunchem Hall Elementary School, run by an abusive principal Ms. Trunchbull (Pam Ferris) who hates her students. Matilda quickly makes friends with her schoolmates and school teacher Miss Honey (Embeth Davidtz), but begins to realize she has telekinetic powers that she begins to use to stand up to her family and Ms. Trunchbull.
Matilda could almost be thought of as a children’s version of Steven King’s Carrie, but with a happy ending, no pig’s blood and no dead bodies. Danny DeVito seems well-suited to direct this first film adaptation, infusing it with some of his trademark dark comedy yet toned-down for a younger audience. The performances by the adult actors are very good here, and while the children may sometimes appear to be hamming it up for the camera at times, it does appear that they had a fun time making the movie, which just adds more charm to the picture. Matilda was one of the last bright spots in DeVito’s directing career, coming after the misfires of 1992’s Hoffa and before Death to Smoochy in 2002 and Duplex in 2003.
3D Rating: NA
Matilda was shot on 35mm film stock by Director of Photography Stefan Czapsky in the Super 35 process and completed on film in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Sony has gone back to the original camera negative to create a new 4K scan of the film, and the disc features a 2160p HEVC encode retaining the movie’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio with both Dolby Vision and HDR10 grading. This is an absolutely gorgeous transfer with healthy, natural film grain that is never intrusive. Colors are vivid yet never appear overly saturated, and there is a natural gradation to the colors that was not as evident in the now ten year old Blu-ray release that is included in this set. Contrast is also excellent, providing deep blacks with strong shadow detail and bright highlights without clipping. Detail is exceptional, from fabric textures to facial features such as pores.
Matilda was released theatrically in 1996 with Dolby Digital 5.1 and SDDS 8-channel audio. For this UHD release, Sony has remixed the film in Dolby Atmos, which the disc defaults to. This is a pretty good track, somewhat wider and deeper than the included DTS-HD MA 5.1 that appeared on the 2013 Blu-ray. Unfortunately, this is still a fairly front-heavy track, with surrounds and heights engaging as needed during some of the more action-oriented sequences. LFE is adequate, lending some low-end support to the film’s soundtrack where needed. Dialogue is clear and understandable throughout.
Special Features: 3/5
Sony has included two new special features that are exclusive to the UHD disc, with the rest appearing on the included 2013 Blu-ray release. Both discs are housed in a nice steelbook case.
Audio Commentary with Director Danny DeVito: This is a newly recorded commentary track (DeVito even reminisces about one of the Special Features from the older Blu-ray release), and you can tell DeVito really loved making this film. He talks quite fondly of the actors, the crew, and the experience, but also touches on production aspects as well.
Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 2:22):
Afternoon Tea: A “Matilda” Reunion (1080p; 21:01): Most of the cast reunites at the home of Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman to celebrate the release of the film on Blu-ray in 2013.
Matilda’s Movie Magic (480i; 16:14): A look at the film’s practical and visual effects.
A Children’s Guide to Good Manners (480i; 3:12): Clips from the film are used to depict how not to behave.
Escape to the Library (5:48): The importance of the public library.
My Movie About Making “Matilda” by Mara Wilson (480i; 6:27): Home movies shot on the set by Mara Wilson.
Digital Copy: A Movies Anywhere code is included to redeem a 4K digital copy of the film. Unfortunately, there are redemption issues with this title at the time this review was posted:
Movie Anywhere: UHD, HDR10, Dolby Digital+ 5.1
Apple TV: HD, Dolby Digital+ 5.1
Vudu: UHD, Dolby Vision/HDR10, Dolby Digital+ 5.1
Prime Video: HD, Dolby Digital+ 5.1 (despite a 4K HDR version being available)
Matilda is a wickedly funny family film, based on a popular book by Roald Dahl and directed by Danny DeVito, featuring a new and stellar transfer with an engaging new commentary track.
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