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Dennis Review

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★★★★★

Inspired by Hank Ketcham's comic strip Dennis The Menace (not to be confused with the British one in The Beano), this "John Hughes production" is set in a generic American town where kids play in the street at night and nobody locks their doors or windows.

And although writer-producer Hughes is clearly going after his Home Alone audience with this tale of a boy whose insatiable curiosity always leads to disaster, he somehow manages to make you forget he's done it all before. Henry and Alice (Robert Stanton and Lea Thompson) have a problem with their five-year-old son, Dennis (Gable) - they've run out of babysitters who are prepared to go anywhere near the mischievous little brat.

And, when both face the 90s quandary of having to go out of town on business, they beg their childless, elderly neighbours, George and Martha Wilson (Matthau and Plowright), to help them out. The problem, however, is that the curmudgeonly George is already close to strangling his tiny next-door-neighbour after becoming the victim of Dennis' well-meaning but misguided efforts to befriend him.

These include shooting an aspirin down Wilson's throat with a sling-shot, breaking his false teeth, and replacing his mouth freshener with toilet cleaner and his nose drops with mouth-freshener. Hughes and director Castle have gone to great lengths to disguise the non-existent plot with the comedic brilliance of Matthau and the class of Plowright, but fortunately they also don't slack off in the kid department.

Newcomer Mason Gamble manages to be terminally cute without getting on your nerves, and his reluctant friendship with prissy eight-year-old feminist-with-a-lisp Margaret (who tricks his friend into kissing her doll's bum and then taunts him with the "baby-rump-kisser") is simply hysterical.

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