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Movie Review

Beethoven

MPAA Rating: PG for unspecified reasons

Reviewed by: Brett Willis
CONTRIBUTOR

Better Than Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
8 to Adult
Genre:
Comedy, Drama
Length:
1 hr. 27 min.
Year of Release:
1992
USA Release:
_____
Relevant Issues
Box Art for “Beethoven”
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Featuring: Charles Grodin, Bonnie Hunt, Nicholle Tom, Christopher Castile, Sarah Rose Karr, Dean Jones, Oliver Platt, Stanley Tucci, David Duchovny, Patricia Heaton
Director: Brian Levant
Producer: Joe Medjuck, Michael C. Gross, Gordon Webb, Ivan Reitman, Sheldon Kahn
Distributor: Universal

At first glance just another “dog movie,” this tale of a lost and mistreated puppy finding himself a home and a family turned out to be quite enjoyable.

The evil veterinarian, Dr. Varnick (cast-against-type Dean Jones), needs puppies for some illegal experiments, so his lackeys (Oliver Platt and Stanley Tucci) raid a pet store; but some of the puppies escape. One, a St. Bernard, finds his way into the Alice and George Newton (Bonnie Hunt and cast-against-type Charles Grodin) home. George is a wimpy air-freshener executive who is routinely outvoted at home on family matters. Once his children (Nicholle Tom, Christopher Castile, Sarah Rose Karr) see the puppy whom they’ll later name Beethoven, the decision to keep him will be no exception to that rule.

The adult Beethoven wrecks the house in scenes reminiscent of “Turner and Hooch”. [The background for this and other characterization shots is a mix of classical music and-what else-“Roll Over, Beethoven.”] But whenever a family member needs help (meeting boys, warding off bullies, being saved from drowning, getting out of a business deal with loan sharks), Beethoven puts his understanding of English, his mind-reading ability and his brute strength to work to save the day.

Besides the primary villains, there’s a small appearance by David Duchovny (TV’s “X-Files”) as a swindler.

Obviously, the climax will revolve around taking care of Dr. Varnick’s gang. it’s only a question of how.

The acting is deliberately hokey but competent all around. The kids are very good in their roles, and young viewers will identify with some of the things they face. “Chris,” as Beethoven, is very good also.

Content Warnings

With a little more restraint, this film could have gotten a G rating. There’s very little profanity. The villains play their roles with a nasty air, but fakey enough to make it watchable for most kids from age 8 or so. There’s the theme of animal experiments (Varnick intends to use a smaller dog for some kind of chemical testing, and wants Beethoven for a skull-penetration test of a new handgun bullet). No one (human or animal) is killed in the climax; but Dr. Varnick and his goons… well, you wouldn’t want to trade places with them. it’s a laid-back version of “Home Alone.”

Followed by: “Beethoven’s 2nd” (1993, rated PG), same cast and a similar theme, but edgier. “Beethoven’s 3rd” (2000, rated G), new cast. “Beethoven’s 4th” (2001, rated G).


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