Making the Grades
John Hughes, the king of slapstick violence, was at the helm the last time Dennis was put to the screen. This time Warner has opted for a direct to video release with relative newcomers writing and directing. Fortunately the outcome is a film that only resorts to slapstick violence for a few moments, and does an admirable job of recreating the Mitchell's neighborhood just as I remember it in those comic books from long ago.
With the best of intentions, Dennis (Justin Cooper from Liar Liar) is making plans for Mr. Wilson's (Don Rickles) birthday -- but Wilson knows that Dennis's birthday surprises will only result in more grey hairs, and he's already feeling too far over the hill. The birthday plot thickens when Dennis's young at heart grandfather (George Kennedy) arrives, putting Wilson further out to pasture.
This makes Wilson easy bait for two swindlers who reel him in peddling anti-aging remedies. Fortunately for Wilson, Dennis is a boy that doesn't know when to go home and his continuous meddling inadvertently thwarts the crooks' plans.
This sequel does a far better job of capturing the innocence and subtle humor of Hank Ketcham's original creation than Hughes's film. Rickles has George Wilson down pat, with just the right amount of gruffness, yet still soft in the heart. All the other characters, like Dennis's father Henry (Dwier Brown), Margaret (Jaqueline Steiger), and Mrs. Wilson (Betty White) are amazingly accurate live representations of their comic counterparts.
Although the film isn't a groundbreaking work in children's cinema, it does have some funny moments and never portray's Dennis's actions with malicious intent. Dennis has a loving family who are patient with their active son and discipline him appropriately. In fact his obedience adds to the humor when he follows his father's orders to not go over to Mr. Wilson's house unless he's calling for help and hanging by one finger.
With not much to pick from in the way of children's videos this summer, Dennis offers your young ones entertainment without too much Menace.