Making the Grades
Based on the timeless comic strip by Hank Ketcham, the film version of the Menace features all of the characters from the strip, and one extra. The main plot of the movie revolves around Dennis (Mason Gamble) and his endless curiosity which always winds up causing problems for his next door neighbour, Mr. Wilson (Walter Matthau). However, a crook (Christopher Lloyd) comes to town and soon is brought to justice by little Dennis.
This is a John Hughes movie, the infamous writer/producer that brought us Home Alone. The good news is that Dennis is better than Home Alone, but it still has some elements that Hughes seems to think are necessary to entertain children.
The violence in this movie differs from Home Alone in that Dennis is portrayed as innocent. He has the best intentions in the world, with very bad judgement. However, he is portrayed as a loving child, which helps to justify his actions, and some of them are even funny.
Hughes insists on having stupid criminals in his movies, whose only role is to frighten children. Like so many nineties remakes, writers just can't seem to leave well enough alone. Ketcham's characters have entertained for years, so why does Hughes feel we need to add a stupid sinister crook, that once again makes children assume that all criminals have no brains, and can be detained with a slingshot?
The Mitchells live in a typical Hughes home -- huge. Dennis's mom, Alice, complains that she has to work, because money is so tight. The original Alice was always at home making cookies. Ready in a moment to hand out a sit-in-the-corner sentence to Dennis, she was his foundation, and this is lost in the movie. At the end, Dennis is put in a company day care, ready for a sequel. In a movie with this much fantasy, why do we need such a dose of nineties "reality."