Dennis the Menace (film)

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This article is about the American live-action film. For other uses, see Dennis the Menace. For the 1986 animated American series, see Dennis the Menace (1986 TV series). For the 1959 American series, see Dennis the Menace (1959 TV series). For the video game, see Dennis the Menace (video game).
Dennis the Menace
Dennis the menace.jpg
One-sheet poster
Directed by Nick Castle
Produced by
  • John Hughes
  • Richard Vane
Written by John Hughes
Based on Dennis the Menace 
by Hank Ketcham
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Thomas E. Ackerman
Edited by Alan Heim
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • June 25, 1993 (1993-06-25)
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. This, however, is not the first live-action Dennis the Menace film: The first live-action film to feature Dennis was Dennis the Menace: Dinosaur Hunter, which premiered on television in 1987.

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 followed everywhere by his dog, Ruff. Jeannie Russell was the only member of the original television show's cast to appear in the movie.

A direct-to-video sequel called Dennis the Menace Strikes Again was later released in 1998 without the cast members from this film. The film was also followed by a Saturday morning cartoon series called All-New Dennis the Menace.


Dennis Mitchell is a five-year-old boy who lives with his parents Henry and Alice, and is the bane of next door neighbour, George Wilson's existence. George, falls ill after consuming the incorrect dosage of prescription drugs. Dennis attempts to fling an aspirin pill into George’s mouth with a sling shot. This attempt fails and George gags, and spits out the pills. When they arrive, Dennis, Joey, and Margaret venture into the woods to an abandoned tree house and intend to fix it up. Later, while getting paint from a high shelf in the garage, Dennis tries to grab his slingshot, which was taken away from him, accidentally spills paint on the ground. He fervently attempts to vacuum it up. Next Dennis is sent to another set of babysitters; Polly and Mickey. Devilishly Dennis fools them into scorning George, framing them to believe that he was behind the door. Dennis is therefore luckily escapes the consequences of spilling the paint. Meanwhile, a burglar named Switchblade Sam arrives in town and begins robbing houses, as well as striking fear into the children that he meets. Dennis’ parents are frustrated that no one while care for him while they’re away on business. Sadly, for George, he and his wife Martha are charged with the task of caring for the troublesome boy. Martha loves Dennis as if he were her own son. Alternatively, George is further irritated by him spilling bath water on the bathroom floor, replacing his nasal spray with mouthwash, and his mouthwash with toilet cleanser, and even releasing the dog; Ruff into the house. While under their care, Dennis figures out the code to George’s safe containing his prized gold coins.

Fortunately for George he is selected to host the Summer Floraganza. He has been growing a rare night-blooming orchid for forty years especially for the event; Despite the investment the flower dies shortly after blooming. Alice’s flight is delayed by a storm and Dennis remains for the night of the orchard’s blooming. Dennis is inside when he hears Switchblade Sam robbing the house, he goes downstairs and finds George's gold coins missing. Just as the flower is to bloom Dennis distracts the viewers and they miss its brief blooming span. Irate George chastises Dennis, causing him to flee on his bike. On his travel Switchblade Sam abducts Dennis. Dennis’ parents learn of his absence and contact the authorities and friends to search for Dennis. George joins them, as he now feels intense guilt. Dennis unintentionally defeats Switchblade by handcuffing him with a rope. He returns to George's house the next morning with Switchblade Sam in his wagon, having also recovered George's gold coins. Sam is also taken into police custody. Dennis and George make amends, and the Mitchells and Wilsons are also on better terms. That night, George explains that he's learned some things about children: "Kids are kids, you have to play by their rules. If you can't do that, you're headed for trouble. You have to roll with the punches. You have to expect the unexpected."


Production notes[edit]

Mason Gamble won the role of Dennis Mitchell after beating out a reported 20,000 other children who had auditioned for the film.[1] The script was written to use certain references from both Back to the Future (also starring Christopher Lloyd and Lea Thompson) and Home Alone (also written and produced by John Hughes and starring Devin Ratray).

The film premiered on 25 June 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 also debuted in 1951.


The film's music was composed by veteran composer Jerry Goldsmith, who was John Hughes' first and only choice to write the music score for this film.

Additionally, three old-time pop hits were featured in the film: "Don't Hang Up" by The Orlons, "Whatcha Know Joe" by Jo Stafford (from the 1963 album Getting Sentimental over Tommy Dorsey), and "A String of Pearls" by Glenn Miller.

Video game[edit]

The film also spawned a platforming video game for the Amiga, Super Nintendo and Game Boy consoles. The stages for the game include Mr. Wilson's house, the great outdoors and a boiler room among others.


Dennis the Menace was a success at the box office. Against a $35 million budget, the film grossed $51.3 million domestically and a further $66 million overseas to a total of $117.3 million worldwide,[2][3] despite generally negative reviews from film critics.[4][5] On Rotten Tomatoes, it has a "rotten" rating of 23%, with the general consensus saying, "Walter Matthau does a nice job as Mr. Wilson, but Dennis the Menace follows the Home Alone formula far too closely".

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.".[6] Mason Gamble received a Razzie Award nomination for Worst New Star but also won "Best Youth Actor Leading Role in a Motion Picture: Comedy" at the 15th Youth in Film Awards.


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