Dennis the Menace
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that although the hero is 5, this movie comes with caveats for those who are squeamish or easily scared. Also, parents should know that the contrived story is unnecessarily sinister, neither true to its comic-strip origins nor suitably updated.
What's the story?
In DENNIS THE MANACE, 5-year-old Dennis is on summer vacation from school. After various babysitters find him too challenging, Dennis' parents turn to Mr. and Mrs. Wilson to watch their difficult child.
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.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the relationship between Dennis and Mr. Wilson. Why can't they get along? How do you get along with someone who is difficult?