“You’re a pest. A menace. A selfish, spoiled little boy, and I’ve no use for you.”
Skip’s rating: An apple a day does not keep the psychotic hobo away.
Skip’s review: The ’90s were an odd time to be a kid. You had this great new thing called the internet, yet you still lived in a world with all of the analog essentials that society had been using for forever. One of these things was called a newspaper. Remember newspapers? They were how you got your news before our current news-heavy existence.
Nestled inside this relic of the ancient world every Sunday was something special. Something just for us kids: The funnies, which were hidden between boring news articles about politics and local drivel were comic strips. Every kid knew the big names. Calvin and Hobbes. Peanuts. Garfield.
Dennis the Menace.
Now I must admit, I was aware of the film before I was aware of the comic, but that doesn’t change the place in my heart that this endearing little comic holds. We loved our comic strip bad boys, and Dennis was… well… a menace.
The film itself lives up to the spirit of the cartoon in as much as a film can relate to a comic strip. Dennis the Menace follows the antics of the titular Dennis (Mason Gamble) as he attempts to make the life of his curmudgeonly neighbor Mr. Wilson (Walter Matthau) just a little better — while decidedly making it much worse. When Mr. and Mrs. Menace (Robert Stanton and Lea Thompson) go out of town, they leave Mr. Wilson and his much less grouchy wife (Joan Plowright) to watch over their comically ne’er-do-well son.
Eventually, in a move that shocks absolutely no one, tempers flare and Dennis runs away from the Wilsons’ home (which is probably best for the storyline as it was getting a little stale). Now a vagabond on the lam, Dennis immediately runs into an actual vagabond on the lam (Christopher Lloyd) who really hates two things: children and appropriate kitchen tools.
It is at this point that we realize the glaring issue with this movie – it wants very badly to be Home Alone. Tiny smart aleck blonde kid? Check. Famous attractive mom from an ’80s classic? Check. Bad guy with a history of playing rough characters? Check. Protagonist who apprehends criminals with less hassle than Batman? Check.
But hey, it’s a formula that works, and while it doesn’t quite have the same staying power as Home Alone, I found it to be a lovely piece of cinema regardless. I blame this film for my love affair with older cinema I wouldn’t see until years later. Walter Matthau is a cinema legend with films like The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and The Odd Couple. Christopher Lloyd is not only brilliant in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest but shares one of the best films of all time with Lea Thompson in Back To The Future. Even future television star Natasha Lyonne makes an appearance (who is fantastic in Slums of Beverly Hills – a film which I will definitely review soon).
All in all, this is a family-friendly romp that hasn’t aged itself out of the “essential viewing” category when it comes to children’s media, and should be a must-watch for anyone wanting to see more of this wonderful cast.