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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Meant to entertain rather than educate.
All the female characters wear dresses only. Margaret is obsessed by girlish things, such as turning the boys' fort into a house with curtains. Some bathroom humor and mean-spirited gags.
Positive Role Models
No real positive role models.
Violence & Scariness
When the main antagonist takes his lumps, the result is a bloody, swollen face. He is also tied up, falls on a knife, gets burned. Dennis is kidnapped by a hobo. Mr. Wilson is on the receiving end of Dennis' unintentional pratfall violence -- golf ball to the groin, slipping, falling, etc.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Dennis and his pals discuss how babies get into a mother's stomach (the mother's belly button opens up so the baby can enter). Dennis tells Mrs. Wilson how his parents "wrestle" on Sunday mornings, by themselves and with their shirts off. Dennis finds an old magazine belonging to Mr Wilson called "Peep Show," with a picture of a scantily-clad woman from the 1950s. A babysitter and her boyfriend make out on the couch.
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Mr. Wilson says the initials "G-D" out loud when he's really upset. Little kids call each other names like "stupid" and "jerk." When reading a children's story about trains to Dennis, the boyfriend of the babysitter misreads a line by saying, "All trains are impotent." Potty humor.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
When asked what adults do, a little girl says that they "drink beer." Cigarette smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Dennis the Menace is a 1993 remake of the 1950s situation comedy. Expect a lot of exaggerated pratfall violence -- if Mr. Wilson isn't on the receiving end of Dennis' unintentional shenanigans (slipping, falling, golf ball to the groin, etc.), the antagonist (a scary-looking vagrant played by Christopher Lloyd) finds himself handcuffed, tied up, knife falling on his backside, etc. Dennis is kidnapped by a hobo. Dennis finds an old magazine in Mr. Wilson's basement called "Peep Show," with a scantily-clad woman from the 1950s on the cover. Little kids discuss "how babies are made (the mother's belly button opens up so they can enter). Dennis tells Mrs. Wilson how his parents like to "wrestle" on Sunday mornings, by themselves with their shirts off. A babysitter and her boyfriend make out on the couch. Later, this boyfriend reads a train-themed children's story to Dennis and misreads a line in the story as "all trains are impotent." Baked beans and the inevitable flatulence play a part in the action later in the movie. The screenplay was written by John Hughes, and like the classic 1980s teen movies he directed, there's a fair amount of "kids versus adults" noticeable to those familiar with Hughes' other movies. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Instead of painting Mr. Wilson as a meanie in this unexceptional movie, director Nick Castle makes him more complex -- the frustrated victim of Dennis's childish literal-mindedness. Matthau brings lovable grouchiness and wince-inducing pratfalls to the role, setting the stage for Dennis and Mr. Wilson's inevitable reconciliation. A 4-year-old was puzzled by the sometimes good, sometimes bad behavior of Dennis and Mr. Wilson. For her, the most easily understood character was the menacing Christopher Lloyd, a sinister scene-stealing presence. Despite the violence, the 4-year-old liked his scenes best, because she could cheer for Dennis and hiss at his enemy without feeling confused.
A 7-year-old relished this depth of characterization, and watched Dennis with a knowing smile, shaking her head over his innocence and wrong-headedness. The set-up and delivery of jokes are geared to this age group: Dennis helpfully refills a nosedrop bottle with mouthwash, and refills a mouthwash bottle with bathroom cleaner. Enter Mr. Wilson, who uses his nosedrops and mouthwash before bedtime. Older children will delight in every spill Mr. Wilson takes.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.