Beethoven's 1st - a Canine Concerto
"Beethoven" is very much a movie made in the tradition of family movies with a family unit featuring adorable kids, a stressed father, an ultra calm mother, it also has inept bad guys and of course a dog to cause both mayhem as well as saving the day. As such it's a movie which kids will like with all the semi slapstick style mayhem and parents will find amusing especially with Dean Jones who once was a staple of these sorts of movies playing the stressed father switching roles to play a bad guy. Simply put "Beethoven" is unoriginal but still good fun.
Having escaped the clutches of some inept dog snatchers, Beethoven an adorable St. Bernard puppy finds himself being adopted by the Newton family much to the horror of George Newton (Charles Grodin - Midnight Run) who fears his home will be wrecked by the dog. Sure enough as Beethoven grows bigger and bigger he causes mayhem in the Newton household but also becomes one of the family as he helps them out in unexpected ways. But when a villainous vet wanting to get his hands on Beethoven for a nasty experiment dupes George into letting him have him it seems that Beethoven's days may be numbered.
There are almost 3 distinct parts to "Beethoven" with the introduction to the cute St. Bernard as a puppy and the turmoil of him growing up, demolishing the Newton's home in the process. Then there is Beethoven becoming one of the family who helps sort out the children's problems in almost a "Lassie" sort of way, saving the youngest from drowning, scaring the bullies away from Ted and leading the school hunk to the eldest daughter who she fancies from afar. And then of course there is the third part, the bad guys who steal dogs and want Beethoven due to his size. All of which makes it sound rather unoriginal, and I suppose in a way "Beethoven" is, but it is fun along the way.
It is the fact that there is a strong stream of comedy flowing through every scene which raises "Beethoven" up into something both fun for children and adults alike. From Beethoven growing up and causing George Newton to become more and more stressed as he leaves muddy paw prints across his once pristine home and steals the bacon of the plates through to the way he scares away the bullies, almost every scene raises a smile. None of it is brilliantly original but it all works well with the range of well trained dogs that play Beethoven working well with Charles Grodin to make these moments as funny as they are meant to be.
Of course there is also the bad guy side which not only features Dean Jones switching roles to play a villainous vet but also sees Stanley Tucci and Oliver Platt playing text book inept henchman. As already mentioned it's very much in the tradition of family movies and although you have the evil plans to get Beethoven it is family friendly and you can easily leave young children watching "Beethoven" without fear of anything untoward appearing or scenes which may scare them. In fact young children will laugh at the ineptness of the henchman in the same way they would laugh at the ineptness of the sticky bandits from the "Home Alone" movies.
At the centre of all this there is of course Beethoven the St. Bernard and it has to be said that for 150 pounds of slobbering canine he is as cute as they come, especially before we get to see Beethoven as the adult dog and watch him grow from a playfully adorable puppy. It has to be said that whilst the dogs that play Beethoven may not have the boundless energy of say Lassie they are just as well trained and this helps to make Beethoven a character in itself rather than just a dog. But there is a negative and there are moments where they try to manipulate the facial expression of Beethoven and whilst the kids will laugh at the look of wide eyed shock on his face the technique used is a little bit ropey.
Aside from Beethoven, Charles Grodin does a great job of playing George the stressed out father of the Newton family and Bonnie Hunt who although often blends into the background is perfect as his ultra calm, ultra organized wife. Plus there are the Newton kids and they are as an adorable bunch as they come with an especially nice performance coming from Sarah Rose Karr as Emily the youngest of the family. Add to this the bad guys and a couple of small roles for Patricia Heaton and David Duchovny as shallow yuppies and there are plenty of amusing characters to play off of Beethoven's cuteness.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "Beethoven" is almost unoriginal with the set up of the family, the bad guys and a cute dog it is also good fun. It's the sort of movie which was once the mainstay of family entertainment and as such has an innocent charm to it making it almost feel like a nostalgic trip back to when family movies were inoffensive and fun.
Tags: Dog Movies