This adaptation is paradoxical, a film celebrating the fruits of book-reading that's not as good as the original novel. DeVito can't resist the Hollywood touch - special effects, suspect stereotypes, crushing music - especially in the latter stages. Still, mainly he's stuck to the book, and anyway, there's scope enough in Dahl's slipstream for something worthwhile. Our heroine (Mara Wilson) is a precocious, bright, spunky young thing somehow born to mindless, amoral, stupid neanderthals. Dad (DeVito) is a crooked car dealer, Mum (Perlman) a bingo junkie; they both ignore her. When she's finally sent to school, it's as part-receipt for a used car Dad's sold to the headmistress, Miss Trunchbull (Ferris). Alas, the teaching methods of this Olympic hammer-throwing harridan are open to question - her idea of a perfect school is one with no children. DeVito's snappy, kinetic visual style fits the cartoon feel of the material, and the cast is great. It's a modern-day pantomime about childhood solidarity and self-empowerment: the real joy here is the view of generational war, the children's assumption of zero tolerance for injustices inflicted by absurd adults, and the recognition that the big meanies should be punished, by fair means or foul.