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If you’re one of the scores upon scores of film buffs who have long been exclaiming, "It’s high time we had ourselves another Dennis the Menace movie," GREAT NEWS! Your prayers have been answered; your cries have been heard! Gil Netter and Warner Brothers are teaming up to bring Dennis Mitchell back to the big screen…again.
The Tracking Board is reporting that Gil Netter, of Flicka, Marley & Me, and The Blind Side, will produce a revitalized big screen version of Dennis the Menace while Jesse Ehrman and Nik Mavenkurve will oversee the project for the studio. The report goes on further to state that the project is "a priority," with producers currently on the hunt for the perfect screenwriter.
Dennis the Menace first took live action form in 1987 by way of a made-for-TV movie called Dennis the Menace: Dinosaur Hunter. In it, Victor DiMattia turned in a career performance as the precocious comic menace opposite Emmy winner William Windom. The film was retitled and released on DVD as a follow up to the 1993 feature film, Dennis the Menace, starring film icon Walter Matthau. Since then, numerous iterations have gone straight-to-DVD, including the last on-screen appearance of the character, A Dennis the Menace Christmas, from 2007, which reprised the classic A Christmas Carol with Mr. Wilson playing the part of Scrooge.
Dennis the Menace was created by Hank Ketcham and debuted as a syndicated newspaper strip on March 12, 1951. Currently produced by Ketcham’s assistants Marcus Hamilton and Ron Ferdinand following Ketcham’s death, Dennis the Menace first spawned a television sitcom in 1959 starring Jay North as the rambunctious Dennis Mitchell that situated itself along the lines of everyday family shows like Leave it to Beaver. Based off of the popularity of the newspaper strip, several incarnations have taken comic book form, including a short-lived series produced by Marvel during the late 80’s. Perhaps the best incarnation of the show, and certainly my favorite, was the afternoon cartoon that ran from 1986 to 1992 produced by DIC Entertainment that featured comedy legend Phil Hartman as Dennis’ dad. Henry.
Perhaps if Phil Hartman were still alive he could play the most hilarious Mr. Wilson of all time. Dennis the Menace has obviously proven to be an enduring money maker with publishers like Fantagraphics and studios like Warner Bros. continually revisiting it. The character is a safe play and exists in a safe world. While a brattier, slightly edgier Dennis would be interesting to see, it’s the consistent reliability of reaching a large demographic that furthers the property’s appeal. With that understanding, Netter is the perfect partner for this project with everyone knowing pretty much what we’re gonna get. Still, would it be too much to ask to at least CG the thing a la the forthcoming Peanuts movie? Either that of a movie version of the 80’s cartoon! That, I’d go see.