Dennis the Menace (Nick Castle, 1993, USA)

Dennis the Menace was a clear attempt from John Hughes to capture the success of the Home Alone franchise. By the second film, it was clear that Home Alone - at least in its current iteration with Culkin - was running out of steam. Dennis, based on the long-running comic series, captures another blond-haired boy doing pranks and mischief on an older person. Like Home Alone, it also features a criminal - Switchblade Sam (Christopher Lloyd). In both films, our protagonist ends up foiling the plot of the criminal to ruin things. Dennis was a big success, grossing close to $120 million.

20,000 children auditioned for the role of Dennis - star Mason Gamble left an impression on the casting directors by bringing a worm to the audition. Gamble's performance seems to be very divisive - it is not regarded at the same level as Culkin's in Home Alone. Still, it has its charm, though it is hard for him to carry the film as a 5-year-old. Walter Matthau is the reason to watch the film - his cantankerous Mr. Wilson is the source of much of the film's humor. The film's idyllic suburban setting feels timeless and that lends the film a rewatchability.

Critics like Roger Ebert were less kind to Christopher Lloyd's character of Switchblade Sam, but from our perspective, his character adds a sense of real menace and danger to a film that would otherwise feel too bland. You can almost smell Switchblade Sam while watching him on the screen. Lloyd has minimal dialogue but he does a lot with his body language and mannerisms. One thing kids' films today have lost is the real sense of menace and danger that was present in films like Home Alone and Dennis, so it is nice to see it.



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