A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Beethoven is a 1992 comedy about an oversized St. Bernard who prevents and causes trouble for a suburban family. A bespectacled youngster is physically and verbally bullied until he stands up to the bullies with the help of Beethoven. Everyone in the family cheers when the father hits a villain. A young girl nearly drowns before she is rescued by Beethoven. A veterinarian and his henchman run a stolen dog ring in the interests of trying to test how destructive and "messy" a bullet is when fired at point-blank range. Beethoven is almost killed by a villain who abuses animals in the name of research, and is shown punching Beethoven in the head. There's some sexual innuendo -- Beethoven gets into bed with the father and starts licking the back of his head; thinking it's his wife, he starts to moan with pleasure and says, "is Daddy's little girl being naughty?" After each family member writes down the name they want to give the dog after he turns up in their home, it's strongly implied that the youngest girl, maybe 5 years old, has written down a bad word. "Hell," "sucks," and "damn" are heard. When trying to expand his business, the dad says that if the deal doesn't go through, "I'll kill myself."
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
A St. Bernard pup escapes the clutches of dog-nappers who have taken him from a pet store. The little dog wanders into the suburban home of the Newton family. Although father George (Charles Grodin) is dead set against having a dog, his three children immediately bond with their new canine. George agrees to let the pup, which his kids name BEETHOVEN, stay until the real owner is found. Of course that never happens, and the dog grows to full size. Beethoven is as lovable as he is messy, and helps the Newton kids cope with various growing pains. But more trouble arises when an evil veterinarian decides that Beethoven is just the dog he needs for a weapons testing project. The kids must convince Dad that Beethoven is innocent of a faked assault charge.
Is it any good?
The slapstick gags in this movie may be old as the hills, but that hardly matters for kids. For them, this comedy hit offers the irresistible combination of a dog whose destructiveness is excused by his innocence with the spectacle of a prissy, fastidious father who is proven wrong at nearly every turn.
Written by John Hughes (using the pseudonym "Edmond Dantes"), Beethoven takes a lot of unnecessary cheap shots. With the exception of Mrs. Newton, all of the adult characters are depicted as either ninnies or villains. No father would want to be treated the way that George Newton is treated by his kids when they disagree with him. One 7-year-old viewer considered George to be a "jerk," even after he saves Beethoven in the end. Beethoven is only occasionally lively, but young kids will watch it over and over to see the dog drool, shake, and slobber all over the place. Sensitive kids may be bothered by the animal abuse and peril.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about dog movies. How is Beethoven similar to and different from other canine capers?
This movie was ghost written by John Hughes, the writer and director of '80s hits like The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, and Home Alone. In many of Hughes' movies, adults are shown to be bumbling, self-obsessed, and authoritarian, whereas kids and teens are often shown to be sophisticated, smart, and certainly capable of using profanity and engaging in other bad behaviors. How does Beethoven typify the style and attitude of John Hughes' movies?
How is bullying shown in this movie? How would such bullying be handled now, in real life and in movies? Would it be any different?
- In theaters: April 3, 1992
- On DVD or streaming: September 24, 2002
- Cast: Bonnie Hunt, Charles Grodin, Dean Jones
- Director: Brian Levant
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Middle School
- Run time: 77 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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