"Dennis The Menace"
Music By Jerry Goldsmith
La-La Land Records
31 Tracks/Disc Time: 77:58
Fresh off the success of the "Home Alone" films, Writer/Director/Producer John Hughes was the one who was tapped to bring one of the comic strips most memorable cartoons in "Dennis The Menace" which was created in 1951 by Hank Ketchum. For this modern (well for 1993) version of the character, 12 year-old Mason Gamble was chosen to play the famous character and backed up with solid cast that includes Oscar Winner Walter Matthau ("The Fortune Cookie", "The Odd Couple") as the mean and misunderstood Mr. Wilson who is the constant subject of torment by the young boy, along with Lea Thompson ("Back To The Future Trilogy") as Dennis' Mom and Christopher Lloyd as the nasty sinister thief, Switchblade Sam. The film revolves around the antics of young Dennis Mitchell and his next door neighbor, Mr. Wilson as Dennis' mom goes back to work and is left in the care of Mr. Wilson and his wife (Joan Plowright, "I Love You To Death") while the dirty thief Switchblade Sam is running around the peaceful neighborhood stealing everything from apples to toys. He soon meets his match when he crosses paths with Dennis which involves a can of Beans and other assorted comical moments. The film was directed by Nick Castle, who wrote and directed the criminally underrated and overlooked 1986 fantasy, "The Boy Who Could Fly" and was a surprise hit at the box office that summer.
What made the film very successful was the masterful musical presence of the late Jerry Goldsmith, who at the time was about to go through a very busy renassiance period that would culminate in about six other films including this one in 1993 alone that would also include "Matinee", "Malice", Six Degrees Of Separation", "Rudy", "The Vanishing", and "Love Field" and would achieve great success for the rest of the decade with memorable scores such as "First Knight", "The Shadow", "Executive Decision", "The Ghost And The Darkness", "Air Force One", "The Edge", "L.A. Confidential", "Mulan", "The Mummy" and "The 13th Warrior" to name a few. Goldsmith was a great musical talent that is sorely missed today due to his wonderful scores and the fact, that he left behind a great legacy that has withstood the test of time so far.
His score for this film, is a fun little endevor that works because Goldsmith really touches upon the sentimentality of the character and his youthful exuberance ("Our Town") with an Americana feel thanks to Tommy Morgan's flawless harmonica solos and Jim Self's tuba solos which backup the comidic moments of the score throughout. The Main Title is a hard charging theme that isn't all that dissimilar to that of his wonderful score to Michael Crichton's "The Great Train Robbery which is a good musical template for a film that requires this type of energy. Writing some fun material for Dennis' misadventures around the quiet neighborhood with stand out tracks such as "Hide And Seek", "Spilled Paint", "Babysitting", "Bed Time" and "The Shaggy Dog Story" while also keeping the relationship between Dennis and Mr. Wilson in playful, (yet frustrating and painful) regard with tracks such as "A Funny Taste", "Take An Asprin", "The Dentures/The Purse", "A Mistake", "Remembering Dennis" and "The Search", which features some wonderful dramatic writing that he was known for with clever touches of whimsy. Goldsmith also wrote a sinister theme for Switchblade Sam that features a bevy of electronics and flute solos with aggressive strings that appear in the tracks "Dollnapped", "The Shower/Broken Flowers", "The Heist" and "Tied Up" that really add a bit of creepiness to the proceedings as sort of a boogeyman like character. While "Beans" easily the stand out track that displays his theme in a more frenetic and exhilarating way. The film's fine finale features Goldsmith bringing closure to the score with solid reprises in the highlights of "He's Back", "Forgetful Sam" and "Toasted Marshmellows" the final track sums up the score with exciting gusto and the very same energy that Goldsmith was known for in every project he undertook.
La-La Land's expanded release of this score presents an additional thirty-plus minutes that were previously not on the original Big Screen Records release during the films' release and that was a pretty darn good album featuring the best of everything that the score had to offer, except this one ups the ante a little bit more featuring even more material that shouldn't have been left off the original disc, but was mainly due to reuse fees at the time which were a little costly. This release will please fans of the original score and enjoy the new wealth of material that was previously missing along with a few of the album versions that Goldsmith himself arranged for it. It was also very rare up until this point that Goldsmith would even undertake a comedy film, but is easily one of the best children's score he's had written without question. Essentially, he was the straight man for Dennis' on screen antics and let the action on screen fend for themselves which ended up in a positive result. "Dennis The Menace" isn't the quintessential Goldsmith score unlike the memorable ones he had written like "Patton" or "Rambo" for example, but it is a very effective one and he really was in fine form with this one which makes it more and more fun to rediscover it the more you listen to it. Very positive thumbs up.