ⓘ Beethoven (film)

Beethoven (film)

ⓘ Beethoven (film)

Beethoven is a 1992 American family comedy film, directed by Brian Levant and starring Charles Grodin and Bonnie Hunt as George and Alice Newton. It is the first installment of the Beethoven film series.

The film was written by John Hughes under the pseudonym Edmond Dantes and Amy Holden Jones. The story centers on a St. Bernard dog named after the composer Ludwig van Beethoven and owned by the Newton family. It costars Nicholle Tom as Ryce Newton, Christopher Castile as Ted Newton, Sarah Rose Karr as Emily Newton, Stanley Tucci as Vernon, Oliver Platt as Harvey, and Dean Jones as Dr. Herman Varnick. It features music composed by Ludwig van Beethoven.


1. Plot

A group of puppies are stolen from a pet store by two thieves. A St. Bernard puppy escapes and sneaks into the Newton familys home. The workaholic father, George Newton, doesnt want the responsibility of owning a dog, but his wife, Alice, and their children, Ryce, Ted, and Emily, convince him. They give him the name" Beethoven” when Emily plays a portion of Ludwig van Beethovens Fifth Symphony on the piano and the dog barks along to it.

Beethoven grows into a full grown, adult dog and helps the children overcome their problems: he helps Ryce talk to her crush, scares off bullies for Ted, and saves Emilys life when she falls into an irresponsible babysitters swimming pool. George, jealous of the affection Beethoven receives, feels neglected as his family fawns over him. The dogs antics ruin a barbecue he is hosting for Brad and Brie; unpleasant venture capitalists looking to invest and swindle him out of his car freshener firm.

The Newtons take Beethoven to a veterinarian, Dr. Herman Varnick, for a routine medical examination and immunizations. They are unaware that he is involved in unethical and deadly animal experiments. He speaks to George and tells him of a supposed mental instability among St. Bernards making them potentially dangerous to humans and advises him to watch Beethoven closely for any sign of viciousness. He actually requires large-skulled dogs such as St. Bernards for an ammunition test.

Dr. Varnick visits the Newton home under the guise of doing a follow-up exam on Beethoven. He puts fake blood on his arm and hits Beethoven until he leaps on him. He pretends to be in agony, warning George that Beethoven may be turning aggressive and must be euthanized or he will have no choice but to press charges. Emily, who saw Dr. Varnick hit him, protests that the attack was fake, but George, fearing for his familys safety, reluctantly takes him to Dr. Varnicks office. It is on the way there that George discovers his own affections for him: he remembers his father had to take their dog to the vet to be euthanized and he never forgave him for it. He fears that his own family will hate him now for taking Beethoven to be euthanized. When he returns home with the empty leash and collar, his family leaves the dinner table rather than remain with him, proving his fears true.

After seeing his family upset, the Newtons go to Dr. Varnicks office, but he tells them that Beethoven has already been euthanized. However, George remembers that Varnicks receptionist told him that Beethoven would not be euthanized until the next day. George then notices that Dr. Varnick has no bite marks on his arm and assaults him. The Newtons follow him to his warehouse. Beethoven breaks free but is recaptured by Dr. Varnicks two associates, Harvey and Vernon, while Alice calls the police. George crashes through the skylight just as Dr. Varnick prepares to shoot Beethoven. Before he can, however, a captive Jack Russell Terrier bites him in the crotch, causing him to fire a shot in the air. After hearing the gunshot, Ted drives the car through the door and runs it into a cart, launching numerous syringes into Dr. Varnick and sedating him. As the Newtons reunite with Beethoven and free all the captive dogs, they notice Harvey and Vernon trying to escape and send the dogs after them. They escape into a junkyard, only to be attacked by a pack of Dobermans guarding it.

Dr. Varnick, Harvey, and Vernon are arrested for animal abuse. The Newtons are praised as heroes by the news and George takes a new liking to Beethoven. Ryce also gets a phone call from her crush. The Newtons then go to sleep, saying good night to Beethoven and all of the dogs they rescued, who are all sleeping in their bedroom.


2. Cast

  • Bonnie Hunt as Alice Newton
  • David Duchovny as Brad
  • Christopher Castile as Ted Newton
  • Richard Portnow as Ammo Gun Salesman uncredited
  • Nancy Fish as Miss Grundel
  • Charles Grodin as George Newton
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Student #1
  • Dean Jones as Dr. Herman Varnick
  • Laurel Cronin as Devonia Peet
  • Sarah Rose Karr as Emily Newton
  • Nicholle Tom as Ryce Newton
  • Stanley Tucci as Vernon
  • Oliver Platt as Harvey
  • Patricia Heaton as Brie

3. Production

The dogs featured in the film were owned and trained by Eleanor Keaton. Beethoven is played by canine actor Chris, who had 12 doubles. Principal photography began on May 1, 1991, in Los Angeles, California.


4.1. Reception Critical response

The film received mixed reviews from critics. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, it has an approval rating of 30%, based on reviews from 27 critics, with an average score of 4.7/10. The critical consensus reads "Fluffy and incorrigible, Beethoven is a good boy who deserves a better movie." Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave Beethoven a grade A.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four, writing in his review, "this is not the sort of entertainment I scour the movie pages for, hoping desperately for a new film about a cute dog. Nor did I find anything particularly new in Beethoven ", although I concede that the filmmakers secured an admirable dog for the title role, and that Charles Grodin, who is almost always amusing, has what fun can be had playing the grumpy dad."


4.2. Reception Box office

The film grossed $57.114.049 in North America and $90.100.000 in other territories, for a total of $147.2 million worldwide.


4.3. Reception Accolades

Genesis Awards

In 1993, The Humane Society of the United States nominated Beethoven for Best Feature Film.

Young Artist Awards

In 1993, Sarah Rose Karr, Nicholle Tom, and Christopher Castile were nominated for their roles in Beethoven.


5. Sequels and spin-offs

The film was followed by four sequels and three standalone movies using the Beethoven name and the premise of a St. Bernard but not mentioning previous characters such as the Newton family. Beethovens 2nd was released to theaters in 1993. The remaining sequels were direct-to-video films: Beethovens 3rd 2000, Beethovens 4th 2001, Beethovens 5th 2003, Beethovens Big Break 2008, Beethovens Christmas Adventure 2011, and Beethovens Treasure Tail 2014. An animated TV series was also created around the films that debuted in 1994. Dean Jones voiced the role of George Newton in it after playing Dr. Herman Varnick in the film and Nicholle Tom reprised her role, voicing Ryce Newton.

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