Beethoven

Movie review by M. Faust, Common Sense Media
Beethoven Poster Image

Common Sense says

age 8+

Sloppy but lovable dog tale has violence, innuendo.

PG 1992 77 minutes

Parents say

age 9+

Based on 12 reviews

Kids say

age 8+

Based on 15 reviews

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 8+

Only scored this high because of Grodin, Tucci and Platt.

I cannot say I am a fan of this franchise although I have a soft spot for Charles Grodin and St. Bernard's. I found the narrative to be unimaginative and quite violent for a kid-friendly film. The physical jokes were lowest common denominator and the family unit feels like a caricature, making it impossible to relate to their "love" for Beethoven. The acting with all of the dogs was done well and when has Stanley Tucci been in a film and he does not steal focus? And paired with Oliver Platt...c'mon.
age 9+

Holds up well and still entertaining 30 years later but not as family friendly as you might remember. For older kids and pre-teens only.

This is one of my favorite childhood films of all time. I remember watching it multiple times in the 90s on VHS along with its sequel that came out a year later. As an adult I started to appreciate the other work of Charles Grodin. He had a very hit and miss career by the time this film was made but this and its sequel were considered a comeback for him before he retired from acting for a while to be a television host. Like other actors who retire he did eventually come back to acting later on in life. Admiring the main star and remembering my fondness for the first two films as a child I was very excited to rewatch this and was happy it was on Peacock to stream. It holds up very well for a family film that is now 30 years old and very little if anything at all seems dated. However like so many films from this era that we loved as children I am sad to report that this one also has its inappropriate moments that flew over our heads as little ones. For starters the bad guy vet played by Dean Jones (who ironically was known before this as a main protagonist in many live action Disney films) as well as his two henchmen played by Stanley Tucci and Oliver Platt are pretty scary guys who abuse and attempt to kill animals. I dont object to having villians in a comedy but in order for it to work especially in a family comedy there has to be an appealing silliness about them to balance out how bad they really are. There is nothing likable about these villians. They are not funny, and are most likely to frighten very small viewers. In Home Alone the villians never seemed overly threatening because they were very stupid and were too over the top and silly that even when it looked like something really bad could happen we knew it never would because they were too dumb to really get away with it. Villians need to have a quality about them in a comedy that even if you absolutely hate them you can still be entertained by them. That is what makes them funny. Without that they just come across as total unpleasant creeps that would belong more in an adult drama or horror film. That's the way the villians are portrayed here. More humor with them and goofiness I feel would have been very necessary especially in a comedy for families and children. Given the fact that this film and several Home Alone films were both written by John Hughes you would think Hughes would incorporate the same goofiness and entertaining qualities in these villians as he did to the ones in Home Alone but I guess this time he wanted to be different and have them be darker and even scarier. Again that approach would work in a dark drama or horror film but not a film for families and children. Additionally although the parents have their good qualities and Grodin as the father becomes a better person as the film goes along, I feel the parents here are portrayed as irresponsible and frankly even a little dumb. Again this is not the fault of either Grodin or Bonnie Hunt who plays his wife, this is the fault of the screenwriting. The mom briefly tries to go back to work with her husband at his request and they hire a babysitter who is extremely irresponsible and the youngest daughter drowns in her swimming pool outside until Beethoven saves her from drowning. Additionally the babysitter wants to entertain the children by playing music and wants to play something modern they will enjoy and plays the song Lady Marmalade on an organ while the kids sing along to it. The idea of someone doing that to entertain children is funny but the song has very highly inappropriate and suggestive lyrics. That scene could have still been very funny with a much more appropriate song. Why not Staying Alive by the Bee Gees? But instead the filmmakers thought it would be funnier to include a song about prostitution and think it would fly over kids heads..... Umm not very family friendly I am afraid. And why didnt the parents do a thorough background check on the babysitter to determine if she was a good fit? Obviously she is a bad role model and pays the price hard by getting fired but still why wouldn't the parents do more investigating before sending their children to someone like that? The film also has its core of adult jokes. The language is very mild and acceptable for a PG film but there is a joke in the beginning about male anatomy and while it is subtle and will fly over most children's heads, it just didnt need to be included. Also when Grodin discovers Beethoven is licking him thinking it is his wife who stepped out of bed briefly he makes some very suggestive comments that are not appropriate for children. And then there's the finale, when the family discovers their vet is corrupt and abusing animals. Rather than doing the sensible thing and calling the police they track down the vet who has a gun and demand Beethoven back because the vet is secretly trying to kill the dog after lying to the family that he was aggressive and needed to be euthanized. Grodin forces his way in and attempts to assault the vet and the vet threatens to have him arrested but Grodin doesnt care and hits and knocks him out. Of course this can encourage children to solve similar problems with violence as Grodin is praised by his family for the assault but we know in real life as parents Grodin was not acting in self defense and would have been in legal trouble for assaulting the vet as opposed to just simply calling the police for help. And Grodin nearly risks his life and the life of his family by following the armed vet and his henchmen in an attempt to rescue Beethoven and other animals held hostage. Again, rather than using common sense and calling the police the dad feels he has to be the big hero and rescue the dog, and is almost murdered by the vet for it until the vet is bitten in the crotch by another small dog. Again another joke about body parts that is not appropriate or necessary in a family film. It was funny to see Ben Stiller get bitten in the crotch by a dog in There's Something About Mary but that was a very raunchy R rated comedy for adults, this is a PG rated film intended for children. Why couldn't the parents be written as smarter and less naive? I think it sends a message to kids that shady characters can be trusted and you have to stand up to them yourself when something goes wrong instead of using common sense and calling the cops. On the whole I still enjoy the film very much but I feel it is too dark and even a little violent for very small children. Watching this as I did at age 4 I think was a mistake and I dont think the idea should even be entertained that anyone under 8 can watch this. I always remember this being a fun little movie for adults and small kids alike, but sadly rewatching as an adult I am sad to report that this is not for really little tykes. Ok for 8 and up but there are some bad role models here including some irresponsible and suggestive behavior by the parents as well as some innuendo that is just not appropriate for really little ones.

This title has:

Too much violence

Movie Details

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