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Dennis the Menace
Dennis the menace.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Nick Castle
Produced by
Written by John Hughes
Starring
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Thomas E. Ackerman
Editing by Alan Heim
Studio Hughes Entertainment
Hank Ketcham Enterprises
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) June 25, 1993 (1993-06-25)
Running time 96 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $35 million
Money made $117.2 million

Dennis the Menace is a 1993 American family comedy film based on the Hank Ketcham comic strip of the same name. The film was directed by Nick Castle and written and co-produced by John Hughes, and distributed by Warner Bros. under their Family Entertainment label. Dennis the Menace concerns the misadventures of a mischievous child (Mason Gamble) who wreaks havoc on his next door neighbor George Wilson (Walter Matthau), usually hangs out with his friends Joey (Kellen Hathaway) and Margaret Wade (Amy Sakasitz), and is followed everywhere by his dog, Ruff. The film also features a cameo appearance by Jeannie Russell who was a cast member on the original television show.

Released on June 25, 1993, Dennis the Menace was a commercial success, grossing $117.2 million on a $35 million budget despite receiving negative reviews from critics. A direct-to-video sequel called Dennis the Menace Strikes Again was later released in 1998 without the cast from this film. Another direct-to-video sequel called A Dennis the Menace Christmas was released in 2007 with different cast from both first and second films.

Plot

Five-year-old Dennis Mitchell is a constant source of mischief, especially to his retired next-door neighbor George Wilson. George pretends to be asleep to avoid Dennis, who mistakes this for illness and shoots an aspirin into George’s mouth with a slingshot. Dennis’ parents Henry and Alice try to discipline him as they get ready for work, and leave him with his friend Joey at the home of their classmate Margaret, whom the boys dislike. As the three children fix up an abandoned treehouse in the woods, itinerant criminal Switchblade Sam arrives in town.

Vacuuming up paint in the garage, Dennis inadvertently shoots a glob of paint onto George’s barbecue grill; tasting the paint, George suspects Dennis. The Mitchells leave Dennis with teenage babysitter Polly, who invites her boyfriend Mickey over. Sneaking outside, Dennis pranks Polly and Mickey by ringing the doorbell and hiding until they tape a thumbtack to the doorbell. George investigates the vacuum in the Mitchells’ garage and accidentally shoots himself with a golf ball. Hoping to confront the Mitchells, he pricks his thumb on the tack; mistaking him for the prankster, Polly and Mickey douse him in bath water and flour. Switchblade Sam commits a string of robberies throughout town, and is noticed by the Chief of Police.

Bringing the sleeping George an apology card, Dennis plays with George’s dentures and loses the two front teeth, replacing them with Chiclets just before George has his picture taken for the local newspaper. Alice and Henry both leave on business trips, but are unable to find anyone willing to babysit Dennis. George’s wife Martha agrees to let Dennis stay with them, happy to treat him as the child they never had. George is infuriated by falling in Dennis' spilled bath water, and discovering Dennis has replaced his nasal spray with mouthwash and his mouthwash with toilet cleaner. Dennis lets his dog Ruff inside the Wilsons’ house, leading George to mistake Ruff for Martha in the dark. In the attic, Dennis' carelessness causes George to slip on mothballs and nearly crushes him with a canoe.

George has been chosen to host his garden club’s “Summer Floraganza”, having spent almost forty years growing a rare orchid that will finally bloom that night. During the party, Dennis opens the garage door, which upends the entire table of refreshments, and is sent inside. While the Wilsons and their guests await the flower’s nocturnal display, Switchblade Sam robs the house, stealing George’s collection of antique coins. Dennis alerts the party, distracting everyone from the brief blooming of the flower, which then dies. Furious, George castigates Dennis, who flees to the woods in sadness and is caught by Switchblade Sam. Dennis’ parents arrive home to learn he has disappeared, prompting a town-wide search, and even a guilt-ridden George sets out to find him.

Switchblade Sam prepares to leave town with Dennis as an unsuspecting hostage. Showing Sam the proper way to tie him up, Dennis handcuffs his captor, loses the key, and unintentionally bludgeons him and sets him on fire. Just as Dennis discovers George’s stolen coins and realizes Sam is a thief, Sam attempts to stab Dennis but is snared in a rope caught by a passing train. The next morning, Dennis returns home with the captured Sam, to the relief of George and the entire neighborhood. Sam is arrested, and Dennis naïvely returns his switchblade where he attempts to stab him with it, but Chief Bennett closes the police car door on Sam’s hand that he drops the knife down the drain and wince in pain before being driven away.

Dennis and George make amends, and Alice mentions that she can bring Dennis to work with her as her office now has a daycare center. George insists he would be happy to watch Dennis himself, just as Dennis accidentally flings a flaming marshmallow onto George's forehead. During the credits, Dennis gets his mother's condescending coworker Andrea caught in the office photocopier.

Cast

  • Mason Gamble as Dennis Mitchell
  • Walter Matthau as Mr. George Wilson
  • Joan Plowright as Martha Wilson
  • Christopher Lloyd as Switchblade Sam
  • Lea Thompson as Alice Mitchell
  • Robert Stanton as Henry Mitchell
  • Amy Sakasitz as Margaret Wade
  • Kellen Hathaway as Joey
  • Paul Winfield as Chief Bennett
  • 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 Photographer
  • Ben Stein as Boss (only cameo shot at meeting)
  • Jeannie Russell as Neighbor

Video game

The film also spawned a platforming video game for the Amiga, Super NES and Game Boy platforms. It included stages based on Mr. Wilson's house, the great outdoors, and a boiler room among others.

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