Film Review: Beethoven – 7/10

‘I really don’t like our dog...’

I watched Beethoven as a kid, but not religiously. Although revisiting it made me realise that I actually knew this film better than I thought I did. What I didn’t realise however, is that this film has decent pedigree (pun very much intended). A production credit for Ivan Reitman, a co-writing credit for John Hughes, a cast featuring Charles Grodin, Bonnie Hunt, David Duchovny and Stanley Tucci. That is a hell of a lot of talent for a movie about a dog. And despite its lukewarm reviews, I think Beethoven still holds up pretty well…

The Newton family are ticking along just fine thank you very much until a St. Bernard puppy appears in their backyard. Despite some (justified) misgivings from patriarch George (Grodin), his good-natured wife Alice (Hunt) eventually persuades George to let the dog stay. When the dog appears to enjoy the sound of the piano, he is christened Beethoven.

What’s funny returning to this movie as an adult, is that I now sympathise with all the valid points made by George throughout the course of the movie. Whereas, as a kid I would have considered him a heartless killjoy, he now strikes me as someone I could compare back pain with at the bar. Joking aside, Grodin is genuinely great here, veering between mild annoyance and outright fury whilst still managing to convince during the film’s more sentimental moments (of which there are many, this is a John Hughes script, remember). Sure, director Brian Levant also gifted the world two of the worst movies ever in the shape of Jingle All the Way and Problem Child 2, but he keeps things moving along nicely enough here, and manages to resist his more ridiculous tendencies (although it does appear that Beethoven can fully understand English which is a tad disconcerting).

In the end, Beethoven is exactly what it sets out to be. A perfectly enjoyable family film about a big old dog.