25 Years Later, We Still Want The Pancakes In Matilda
Matilda is 25 years old today. To celebrate, ‘I would like to reach out my hand’ and eat those perfect pancakes.
Cinema amuses us, enthrals us, scares us. Sometimes, it leaves us ‘Hank Marvin’, whether it’s wise guys making pasta sauce to the tune of Beyond the Sea, Uma Thurman slurping a $5 shake, Julia Roberts beginning a relationship with pizza, Harold and Kumar gorging on their White Castle stoner feast, or Jon Favreau making the god of all grilled cheeses.
Matilda, Danny DeVito’s beloved adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic novel, has not one, but two such scenes: Bruce Bogtrotter’s triumphant chocolate cake; and the best pancakes you’ve ever seen and never had.
‘Matilda was left alone… that was how she liked it,’ DeVito narrates, with her blue bow and fringe peering over the kitchen counter. Soup binned, eggs cracked. ‘On my way, on my way, on my way…’
Much like Anton Ego’s transportive bite of ratatouille, hearing those opening chords of Rusted Root’s Send Me On My Way is a shot of golden syrup to the heart; warmth and comfort ruminates within, glimpsing back to a simpler time in most of our lives, reminding me how everybody sings ‘you know what they say about the young’ like ‘buba-de-say buba-de-young’, and making my mouth water at the prospect of those damn golden pancakes.
The whole scene is beautifully composed; but beyond that, it’s a brilliant tutorial. Search the scene on Google and you’ll find countless recipe pages with names like, ‘Fluffy Matilda Pancakes.’
It’s been uploaded to YouTube several times, with one video amassing more than 4.3 million views. ‘Still the best pancake tutorial ever made,’ one user wrote. ‘How’d she get those pancakes so fluffy? I’m getting close to 30 and I’m still figuring it out,’ another commented. ‘I remember rewinding this scene on VHS a million times when I was five and just being so damn impressed that she could make pancakes all on her own and trying to do the same,’ another wrote.
Of course, Matilda hasn’t endured just because of one tasty breakfast, nor is it only down to Pam Ferris chewing up lines like ‘a carbuncle, a blister, a festering pustule of malignant ooze’ as Miss Trunchbull, Embeth Davidtz’s loveable Miss Honey or the sharp-nailed hell of the Chokey: before we obsessed over Marvel and DC movies, Matilda was the perfect superhero story.
Kids everywhere wanted to flick their hands to open the curtains and control a spoonful of Cheerios with their minds, just like some children put straws in their hands to be like Wolverine after seeing X-Men. (No? Just Me?) It’s a classic good vs. evil tale with strokes of Stephen King’s adult-wary coming-of-age stories – we all know it felt to be small and facing off against the world’s waggling, pointing finger.
It’s also a timeless parable for generations slowly morphing into the Wormwoods; just as they gorge on the gaze of the TV, screen addiction starts from toddlerdom today.
On the 30th anniversary of the book, Mara Wilson wrote in Vanity Fair about people always asking her about Matilda’s powers. ‘I believe they’re missing the point: Matilda’s story is allegorical. Reading and education do give you powers, just not necessarily telepathic ones.’
Matilda is available to watch on Netflix now. Eat pancakes, read books, be kind.
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