On this week’s Shouts from the Back Row podcast, we discussed our all-time favourite sports movies, so I thought it only appropriate to do a brief spotlight on what is considered by some to be the worst sports flick ever made: Matilda. The only reason I use the word “some” and not “all” is because not many people have actually seen this monstrosity, including yours truly. This is a case of a movie flopping so spectacularly that Hollywood has almost completely succeeded at erasing it from existence. Matilda (no relation to the movie based on the Roald Dahl novel) is a 1978 family comedy starring Elliott Gould, Robert Mitchum and a boxing kangaroo and, yes, believe it or not, there were people in Hollywood who actually thought this was going to be a monster success. This was around the time when Star Wars forever changed the landscape of movie merchandising and I think the makers of the film genuinely believed that every kid in North America was going to own a Matilda action figure. Unfortunately, any chances of box office success were probably killed the moment they decided to show the kangaroo in the trailer.
The surprising thing is not so much that Hollywood greenlighted this (witness Kangaroo Jack), but that they decided to greenlight it in 1978. Remember, this was long before the days of CGI and motion capture, and trying to stage boxing scenes with a real kangaroo probably wouldn’t have turned out well at all. So their only option was to put a guy in a really cheap-looking kangaroo suit, which… looks more like a giant rat costume, actually! After the massive failure of Matilda, I’m sure everyone responsible wanted to pretend it never happened, so I don’t believe the film was ever released on home video in North America in any format. The following selection of clips were taken from a European VHS release of the film and is the only footage from Matilda that I can find anywhere. I think the images pretty much speak for themselves.