I forgot just how much I love this movie – though retrospect it shouldn’t have been that difficult to surmise: I remembered most of the major sequences and how they just filled my pre-pubescent heart with joy. Ah, the simple pleasures of childhood…and movies about animals.

Beethoven is the first movie in my memory to make rampant use of what I’d like to call “puppy-cam.” There are a lot of scenes seen through the eyes, and the level, of that lovable St. Bernard as he navigates the Newton home and world around him. It establishes quickly on the audience’s identification with the character and while it is a nice little effect, it’s mostly unnecessary. The audience is going to identify with Beethoven just because he’s so darn cute. That little St. Bernard puppy wandering around – how could it not fill anyone with joy?

Awww Beethoven made a mess! How could anyone want to kill you?

Alas, veterinarian Herman Varnick is not a Beethoven-lover (boo! Bad man!) and he devises a plot to snatch the cuddly guy from the Newton family’s paws and conduct strange experiments on him. Why the film chooses to make the villain a veterinarian is beyond me. I can only imagine the defenseless animals stricken with pneumonia that died because of children refusing to go to the “evil vet.” Beethoven‘s legacy may be the staggering explosion of preventable puppy deaths after its release*.

Beethoven spends most of the film drooling, peeing in George’s (Charles Grodin) shoes, messing up important business deals with future Fox Mulder (yes, David Duchovny makes an appearance in this movie, oddly does not mention aliens) and the wife of Everybody Loves Raymond (Patricia Heaton). In between those segments, Beethoven does his daily chores, like pick the kids up from school, get the cute basketball player to notice eldest daughter Ryce (I know, I know, never name your child after a delectable white grain) , and pick up a chocolate-covered croissant at the bakery for his pal Fido. I’m not being inventive – every scene happens just as I’ve described. Awesome, I know.

How Beethoven passes for children’s entertainment is sometimes elusive. There’s a scene where someone almost drowns – while a babysitter screeches the lady-of-the-night ballad “Lady Marmalade” to frightened children. Two crooks (Oliver Platt and Stanley Tucci – the biggest name actors after Beethoven‘s success subsided) steal puppies and keep them in cramped cages. In the action-packed climax one man (armed with a pistol – how did that get in the movie?) is killed with fifteen needles shot into his stomach at close range. Ouch. More likely the stuff of nightmares than wholesome gather-the-whole-family entertainment.

If you haven’t yet been inspired to check out Beethoven – either for it’s “so-bad-it’s-good” scenes of rampant violence and unbelievability or for the sheer cuteness of the lead animal – do so. It’s a childhood classic, deservedly so.

Grade: B+

*I have no idea if this is true.



2 Responses to Beethoven

  1. Nostra says:

    It’s been way too long since I’ve seen it to remember anything about it (I was a lot younger than I am now). I probably would not enjoy it anymore….

  2. Modest Movie says:

    It’s a pretty decent movie (even after all these years) just as long as you can suspend your disbelief and take enjoyment in scenarios that shouldn’t be in a children’s film.

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