John Hughes and Nick Castle‘s Dennis The Menace (’93) wasn’t much but the bathroom-torture scene [below] was laugh-out-loud when I saw it at an all-media screening, and it just made me laugh again. The key moment comes at 2:01, when Walter Matthau‘s Mr. Wilson drinks the reconstituted mouthwash, and then, at 2:37, squeezes the spiked nasal spray into his nostrils. And he howls and dunks his head, etc.
The brilliant stroke comes a split second later with a wide shot of Wilson’s home, and you hear him howl again as a neighborhood dog does the same. Right at that instant the movie is saying to the audience, “We don’t care about this cranky old man in his new striped pajamas…all we want to do is fuck with this guy and make fun of his pain…listen to him!” Somehow the cruelty of this attitude, obviously embraced by Hughes and Castle, translates into funny.