Although it starts out as a faithful rendering of the classic funny papers comic strip, with a top-notch cast of veteran show business pros, this adaptation from screenwriter John Hughes and director Nick Castle goes oddly awry with a crisis that's too glaringly harsh, violent, and disturbing. It's clear that the idea here is to present a villain, Switchblade Sam (Christopher Lloyd), to rival the bone-headed burglars of the writer's previous monster hit Home Alone (1990), but Sam is far more believable and threatening than the cartoon-like bumblers he's intended to recall. The script also makes mush out of the source material by cartoonist Hank Ketchum, transforming Dennis from a mischief-maker into an all-out detestable brat. Walter Matthau is always convincing in the role of a grizzled grump, and the film's production credits are outstanding, but Dennis the Menace is built upon a couple of baffling storytelling choices that make it a wash as family entertainment.
by Karl Williams review