Here we go again. 2 1/2 weeks after I reviewed "Tom And Jerry: A Nutcracker Tale," another slapped together holiday DVD ("A Dennis The Menace Christmas") makes its way into my hands. This family film may have a nice message about Christmas spirit, but the modernized changes to the classic comic strip character added with a horribly cast Dennis make for a painful viewing experience.
The story: After drawing Mr. Wilson's name for a "Secret Santa" gift exchange, Dennis sets out to get Mr. Wilson in the Christmas spirit. Even though Dennis means well, everything he tries to do goes awry and causes pain and frustration for Mr. Wilson. Fed up, Mr. Wilson lashes out at Dennis and ends up hurting his feelings. Luckily, an Angel shows up and tries to show Mr. Wilson the error of his ways and the importance of Christmas. Will Mr. Wilson be able to see the light like Scrooge?
When it comes to comic adaptations, I ask for precious little. I want them to be faithful to the story/characters and I want the actors and actresses to fit their respective role. "A Dennis The Menace Christmas" breaks all the rules. First of all, Dennis doesn't sport overalls in this film. Sure, we see them in his closet, but so what? It's like seeing Batman without his batsuit on.
Secondly, this script strays from reality. One of the likeable aspects about the comic strip was that it was relatable and grounded in reality. To the best of my knowledge, no "Dennis The Menace" comic strip ever had Mr. Wilson traveling back in time and to the future. The sad part is these out of place Mr. Wilson "Christmas Carol" scenes were the best part of the movie. Everything else that occurs is simply a series of goofy repetitive accident scenes.
As for the cast, Dennis himself is horribly miscast. Newcomer Maxwell Perry Cotton is not only too baby faced and young for the role, but he can't act. You'll notice that he is constantly reading off of cue cards or stumbling over his lines. I know I should be kind to child actors, but this casting does not work at all.
The rest of the cast doesn't exactly shine either. Robert Wagner and Louise Fletcher (as Mr. and Mrs. Wilson) appear to be in agony throughout the course of the film. I also have to wonder what the 7 Up guy (Godfrey) is doing here. It seems sort of random for him to appear in this direct-to-DVD release, but I guess Godfrey gotta eat.
In addition to fuzzy colors, the widescreen picture often has a foggy look to it. The film was obviously made on a shoestring budget and it looks it.
The English Dolby Surround 5.1 track contains poor dubbed over dialogue and some weak-sounding music cues, but everything else is decent.
* A 51 second blooper reel mostly showing kids making funny faces or falling.
* 2 minutes of outtakes of actors messing up on lines.
* A 52 second deleted scene of Dennis's father listening to the radio and hearing something quite unexpected.
* Trailers for "Nancy Drew," 'Fred Claus," "Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 5," "Tom And Jerry Tales Vol. 3," "Christmas With Tom and Jerry And The Flinstones."
* A 16 1/2 "Making Of A Dennis The Menace Christmas" showing how they made the character more modern, why they cast Maxwell, etc.
* A pop-up video commentary by Maxwell Perry Cotton. Since the child can't even act, how can he be expected to a commentary? All he does is say things like "Awesome" or "I like this part!"
* An audio commentary by director Ron Oliver and actor Robert Wagner. The two talk about weather problems, the dog, continuity mistakes and how "we all have a little Dennis in all of us."
"A Dennis The Menace Christmas" is one gift you don't want to give this Holiday season. Skip it.
Film and television enthusiast Nick Lyons recently had his first book published titled "Attack of the Sci-Fi Trivia." It is available on Amazon.com.