Beethoven (1992)

Genres - Children's/Family, Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Animal Picture, Family-Oriented Comedy  |   Release Date - Apr 3, 1992 (USA)  |   Run Time - 87 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Derek Armstrong

Don't be confused by the numerous sequels; Brian Levant's Beethoven is no classic. In fact, its only classic element is the classical composer referenced in the title. Otherwise, Beethoven is just a collection of cornball moments and clich├ęd scenes from other family movies in which a cute kid begs "Can I keep him, Dad? Can I?" As the paterfamilias du jour, Charles Grodin seems to have been hired solely for his ability to contort his face into exaggerated shock and frustration. The fact that the titular dog is Dennis the Menace to his Mr. Wilson gets old after about a scene and a half. Playing his wife, the terrific comic actor Bonnie Hunt seems embarrassed to be involved with such obvious humor and reheated conventions. Those who should really be embarrassed are screenwriters John Hughes (under the pseudonym Edmond Dantes) and Amy Holden Jones. When they're not dwelling in the obvious, they're trafficking in the preposterous. The primary dramatic conflict involves a malevolent veterinarian (Dean Jones), who wants to steal Beethoven so he can use him for black market animal testing. See, the vet wants Beethoven for his "large skull," so he can determine the splatter capacity (not in so many words) of a certain type of handgun. Besides the fact that this is way too dark for children, it's absurd that the villain would fixate on this one dog, since there should be many available avenues for acquiring test subjects that don't involve stealing them from nuclear families. Beethoven's greatest curiosity may be its early appearances by future stars: David Duchovny and Patricia Heaton as insufferable businesspeople, and Stanley Tucci and Oliver Platt as bumbling henchmen. Having been instructed by Levant to chew the scenery, they must have been truly relieved when they were cast in their next roles.