Warner Bros. // 2007 // 87 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Judge Katie Herrell (Retired) // November 23rd, 2007
"You Better Watch Out!"
All your Christmas sensibilities will be assaulted with A Dennis the Menace Christmas. The flick takes the irascible Dennis the Menace television series of yore and merges it with the moral perplexities of A Christmas Carol. The result is a disheveled farce that children will cheer while their parents are left groaning.
Dennis the Menace + A Christmas Carol = Explosion. The End.
Ahh, Dennis the Menace. Who didn't love the cute little cowlicked kid who invaded black and white television with his antics and "aww, shucks" attitude? His parents were wholesome hand-wringers who loved their little tyke despite his destructive habits. Dennis' shenanigans were always resolved with a hug and a cookie by the end of the half hour, and the moral message of every show was clear: unequivocal love rules all. Sure, Mr. Wilson seemed like an ice pick during the initial scenes but he quickly softened and fell under Dennis' spell. All was eventually forgiven and lessons were learned all around.
And while A Dennis the Menace Christmas has the same cute kid and the same wholesome parents, it is Mr. Wilson who utterly destroys this film.
Played by Robert Wagner, Mr. Wilson is an orangey caricature of a real person. It looks like his makeup was done in a funeral parlor, and compared to the angelic acting and appearance of Dennis (Maxwell Perry Cotton), Mr. Wilson is an overly exaggerated, angry oaf. He commandeers the screen and thrashes around like an overstuffed chicken with his head cut off.
Certainly, Mr. Wilson's commandment of the film is not entirely the actor's fault. The mercy of Dennis the Menace the television series was its brevity. Just when another round of Dennis vs. Mr. Wilson seemed inevitable, a resolve was reached and the television show ended.
Not so, in this film. The hits just keep coming. In one churning sequence Mr. Wilson breaks an arm, gets poisoned, and watches his house charred by Christmas lights. It's too much.
This non-stop torture coupled with unbelievable special effects -- a car with visibly digital flames spitting out the side -- and the insertion of a second storyline (cue A Christmas Carol) makes for an entirely stomach-churning hour and a half.
Luckily, Maxwell Perry Cotton is a doll. He's realistically irascible and charming. He seems to be having a great time playing conquer and destroy. But he's able to turn on the sorrow and imbue the screen with good intentions as well. His parents (The Mitchells, Kim Schraner and George Newbern) are equally charming, even if the father does seem a little distant and wide-eyed. Then there's Mrs. Wilson, the saving grace for the entire Wilson family. Played by Louise Fletcher, Mrs. Wilson is warm and sad, loving and tough; Fletcher embodies the character to a T.
Ahh, but even Mrs. Wilson can't warm the schmucky father-son duo of David and Jack Bratcher, the nemeses of the Mitchell boys. If hating a character is a sign of good acting then Jack Noseworthy does an excellent job as jerky father David (that caveat doesn't apply to my dislike for Mr. Wilson). And Isaac Durnford, who looks uncannily like the younger son on Weeds, is a respectable echoing parakeet.
And then there's the comedian Godfrey playing Santa Bob and the angel who shows this film's "Scrooge" the ramifications of being a curmudgeon. I don't even know what to make of Santa Bob. In another film he might have been ironically funny. Here, he's...a character named Santa Bob.
As the special features "Bloopers" and "The Making of a Dennis the Menace Christmas" will attest to it can't be easy to make a movie where the star is a 6-year-old and the bulk of actors are under the age of 10. They were always falling over.
And I can't imagine it is easy to constantly produce new Christmas movies that kids will be interested in. Plus, parents can rest assured that this Dennis the Menace film is wholesome, but still a little devilish -- just like their own kids and like the original Dennis the Menace. It's a movie kids will likely enjoy, but not run out and try the stunts at home.
I'll never get the hour and a half I spent watching A Dennis the Menace Christmas or the hour I spent writing this review back and for that I'll always be a little bitter. But if parents need an hour and a half uninterrupted to wrap presents they'll get it with this film.
Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. You better watch out. You better not pout. Dennis the Menace is coming to town.
Review content copyright © 2007 Katie Herrell; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated G
* The Making of A Dennis the Menace Christmas