DeVito's Matilda, which features a magical performance by Mara Wilson as an unappreciated, telekinetic girl genius, and Selick's James and the Giant Peach, which uses puppet animation to bring to life the jumbo garden creatures who befriend a persecuted orphan, will endure as the kind of unruly classics that kids treasure more than official blockbusters such as the horrid new 101 Dalmatians. In its "human" portions, Selick's film would have benefited from DeVito's surprisingly confident touch for live-action grotesquerie; but there's been no more moving or wizardly sequence in movies this year than Selick's musical number "We're Family," about a boy's mind encompassing the cosmos. This year, with Matilda and James and the Giant Peach, it was Roald Dahl, not Jane Austen or Henry James, who brought out the best in moviemakers.

Michael Sragow's Top 10 of 1996

Trainspotting
Tin Cup
The Whole Wide World
Matilda
Bound
Freeway
Cold Comfort Farm
James and the Giant Peach
Palookaville
City Hall

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