- Dennis the Menace (film)
Dennis the Menace
Directed by Nick Castle Produced by
- John Hughes
- Richard Vane
Written by John Hughes Starring Music by Jerry Goldsmith Cinematography Thomas E. Ackerman Studio Hughes Entertainment Distributed by Warner Bros. Release date(s) June 25, 1993 Running time 95 minutes Country United States Language English Budget $35 million Box office $117,270,765
Dennis the Menace (released in the United Kingdom as Dennis to avoid confusion with an identically-named character) is a 1993 live-action American family film based on the Hank Ketcham comic strip of the same name.
The film was directed by Nick Castle, written and produced by John Hughes, and distributed by Warner Bros., which released the film under its Family Entertainment banner. It concerns the misadventures of a mischievous child (Mason Gamble) with a cowlick and a grin who wreaks havoc on his next door neighbor, Mr. Wilson (Walter Matthau), usually hangs out with his friends, Joey (Kellen Hathaway) and Margaret (Amy Sakasitz), and is being followed everywhere by his dog, Ruff.
The film premiered on June 25, 1993. It is known simply as Dennis in the UK to avoid confusion with an unrelated British comic strip, also called "Dennis the Menace," which debuted in 1951.
Dennis Mitchell is a five-year-old boy who lives with his parents Henry and Alice, and is the bane of next door neighbor George Wilson's existence. Because of his trouble-making but unintentional behavior, his parents often struggle to find suitable babysitters to deal with him. On one night, they manage to get one named Polly and her boyfriend Mickey to babysit him, but repeated doorbell pranks from him push the two too far (not knowing he is behind this), and they end up pulling a prank on George when he rings the doorbell to scold Dennis after finding paint and wood in his food in an earlier incident. While all of this and the rest of the events in town go on, a burglar named Switchblade Sam (said name not mentioned in the film, only in the end credits) arrives in town and begins robbing houses, as well as striking fear into the children that he meets.
Dennis' parents are both called away on business trips at the same time, and when everyone they know refuses to look after him, they turn to George and his wife Martha (who loves Dennis and sees him as a surrogate grandson) to look after him. George is further irritated by him spilling bath water on the bathroom floor, swapping chemicals (mouthwash and toilet cleaner, respectively), and bringing his pet dog, Ruff, into the house for a while. All of this is happening around the time the Summer Floraganza, a long-awaited event, is scheduled to happen. As a longtime member of the local garden club, George is chosen to host it. He is excited to have this honor, as he has been growing and nurturing a rare plant for forty years. After growing for the said length of time, its flower finally blooms, only to die several seconds later.
Alice gets stuck at the airport due to a storm, thus forcing Dennis to stay with the Wilsons for an extra night, which coincides with the unveiling of the plant and its blooming to the members of the garden club. While that is happening, he is sent away for causing trouble (namely overturning the dessert table when he pushed a black button, which he found out opened the garage door), when he hears Switchblade Sam robbing the house. He goes downstairs, and finds George's gold coins missing. He runs outside to tell him just as the flower is beginning to bloom, which causes him and all the guests to miss its entire lifespan. Not knowing about the robbery, he severely scolds him, tells him that he has no use for him, and that he doesn't want to know or see him anymore. Shortly thereafter, Dennis gets on his tricycle (with a wagon attached) and rides off into the night, eventually bumping into Switchblade Sam in the park. Sam then abducts him, intending to use the child as a hostage.
Dennis' parents return home and learn of his departure, and they, the authorities, his friends (Joey, Margaret, and all the neighborhood kids), and George (who feels intense guilt and remorse after remembering all the things he said to him and having now discovered his house was burglarized and that Dennis actually had good intentions when he tried to tell him) search all night for him. Around the same time, Dennis unintentionally but effectively defeats Switchblade Sam by tying him up and handcuffing him, losing the key, and repeatedly setting him on fire, amongst other things. He returns to George's house the next morning with Switchblade Sam in his wagon, having also recovered George's gold coins, and Sam is taken into police custody by a slightly amused sheriff who had previously advised him to leave town. Dennis and George make up, and the Mitchells and Wilsons become friends on better terms. That night, George explains that he's learned some things about kids: kids are kids, and that one has to play by their rules, roll with the punches, and expect the unexpected, in which afterward Dennis, trying to get a flame on a marshmallow to go out, then accidentally hits him in the forehead with it.
The film's end credits are accompanied with Dennis inadvertently humiliating his mother's egotistical coworker, Andrea, while she is using a photocopier. She gets caught in it, and Dennis runs away, with other workers looking on.
- Mason Gamble as Dennis Mitchell
- Walter Matthau as George Wilson
- Joan Plowright as Martha Wilson
- Christopher Lloyd as Switchblade Sam
- Robert Stanton as Henry Mitchell
- Lea Thompson as Alice Mitchell
- Amy Sakasitz as Margaret Wade
- Kellen Hathaway as Joey
- Paul Winfield as Chief of Police
- Ben Stein as Boss
- Natasha Lyonne as Polly
- Devin Ratray as Mickey
- Hank Johnston as Gunther Beckman
- Melinda Mullins as Andrea
- Billie Bird as Edith Butterwell
- Bill Erwin as Edward Little
- Arnold Stang as The Photographer
The film's music was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, who was John Hughes' first and only choice to write the music score for this film.
Dennis the Menace was opened to poor reviews but was a success at the box office. Roger Ebert gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four and wrote, "There's a lot to like in Dennis the Menace. But Switchblade Sam prevents me from recommending it." On Rotten Tomatoes, it has a "rotten" rating of 23%. Mason Gamble's performance in the film earned him a Razzie Award nomination for Worst New Star.
- Dennis the Menace at the Internet Movie Database
- Dennis the Menace at Box Office Mojo
- Dennis the Menace at Rotten Tomatoes
TV series Films Other Films directed by Nick Castle 1980s 1990s 2000s John Hughes Director
WriterNational Lampoon's Class Reunion (1982) • Mr. Mom (1983) • National Lampoon's Vacation (1983) • Nate and Hayes (1983) • National Lampoon's European Vacation (1985) • Pretty in Pink (1986) • Some Kind of Wonderful (1987) • The Great Outdoors (1988) • National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989) • Home Alone (1990) • Career Opportunities (1991) • Dutch (1991) • Beethoven (1992) • Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992) • Dennis the Menace (1993) • Baby's Day Out (1994) • Miracle on 34th Street (1994) • 101 Dalmatians (1996) • Flubber (1997) • Home Alone 3 (1997) • Reach the Rock (1998) • Just Visiting (2001) • Maid in Manhattan (2002) • Drillbit Taylor (2008)
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