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A series of family comedy films from Universal about a St. Bernard named after Ludwig van Beethoven. Unlike in its animated spin-off, Beethoven could not speak, although he still had Amplified Animal Aptitude. In keeping with the theme of the composer, the sequels were named Beethoven's 2nd, Beethoven's 3rd, etc. It was originally executive produced by Ivan Reitman and co-written by John Hughes, writing under the pseudonym "Edmond Dantes."

The original film, released in 1992, focused on Beethoven's adoption by the Newton family: curmudgeon father George (Charles Grodin), earnest wife Alice (Bonnie Hunt), Cool Big Sis/Bratty Teenage Daughter Ryce (Nicholle Tom), geeky son Ted (Christopher Castile of Step by Step fame), and Cheerful Child Emily (Sarah Rose Karr of Kindergarten Cop fame). Unbeknownst to them, however, Beethoven is an escaped would-be test animal for a lab run by Dr. Herman Varnick (Dean Jones, who would later voice George Newton in the animated series; Nicholle Tom was the only other cast member to return for the series, providing Ryce's voice), a veterinarian who sounds like Satan and is stealing his customers' dogs for use in unethical experiments.

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Reportedly, the American Veterinary Association wasn't happy about the film featuring an evil veterinarian who uses dogs as ballistic test dummies, and wrote a scathing letter to Jack Valenti, then-president of the Motion Picture Association of America. Probably as a result, the sequel has a 'safe' villain in the form of Regina (Debi Mazar), a Cruella de Vil-esque Rich Bitch and her arrogant but somewhat-dimwitted boyfriend Floyd (Chris Penn). Beethoven's 2nd was the last film to feature the original cast and the last to be released theatrically. It was also the last film to involve Reitman as executive producer.

Seven years after Beethoven's 2nd, the series was resurrected with some Direct-to-Video sequels. The family members were replaced with Suspiciously Similar Substitutes, with the explanation that Beethoven was living "temporarily" with George's brother Richard Newton (Judge Reinhold) and his family. This family includes wife Beth (Julia Sweeney), son Brennan (Joe Pichler) and daughter Sara (Michaela Gallo). After two films with them, Beethoven's 5th featured Sara (now played by Daveigh Chase) bringing Beethoven along on a visit to her Uncle Freddie (Dave Thomas) with the rest of the family absent. This was the last movie set in the original continuity.

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Harvey Comics published a Beethoven Comic Book series in 1994.

In 2008, Beethoven's Big Break rebooted the franchise. Big Break was followed by Beethoven's Christmas Adventure in 2011 and Beethoven's Treasure Tail in 2014.


The series in general provides examples of:

  • Artistic License – Animal Care: Plenty of it. Beethoven's owners are seen feeding him bacon and Twinkies, and he eats other human foods like cookies when nobody's around. Such foods are known to give dogs indigestion, and too much bacon could give a dog pancreatitis.
    • One little girl is seen feeding Beethoven her vanilla ice cream cone as she continues to lick it herself. Understandable as she's just a child, but vanilla is likely not to sit well with Beethoven either. Had it been a chocolate cone, he'd be even worse for the wear.
  • Big Eater: Beethoven, who is often looking for food and annihilates a holiday turkey in one scene.
  • Big Friendly Dog: The titular character.
  • Dogs Are Dumb: Played with. It's intentionally left vague just how smart Beethoven is and he does things that are both astoundingly brilliant and incredibly dumb, sometimes simultaneously.
  • Heroic Dog: Beethoven saves Emily from drowning, Ted from being bullied, Ryce from being raped, the family from being swindled, and performs tons of other feats of heroism.
  • Lighter and Softer: The series tends to get sillier and more light-hearted as it goes along. The first movie had villains involved in unethical animal experiments, and the second one had a scene in which Beethoven saves Ryce from being raped. Compared to the direct-to-video sequels that would follow, the two theatrically-released Beethoven films look positively gritty and hard-edged.
  • Only Sane Man: Gender-flipped, with Alice filling this role in the first two movies, mostly observing the chaos caused by her husband, kids, and Beethoven.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Averted in the first two movies. The Newton siblings regularly do activities together and rarely squabble despite their different ages.

Tropes specific to the first film:

  • Adult Fear: What if your young child got too close to the pool when the babysitter wasn't paying attention?
    • More to the point, what if you unknowingly hired a flagrantly negligent babysitter who would let your child go near an unprotected pool to begin with?
    • Also when Dr. Varnick tells George how Beethoven might become aggressive.
  • Angry Guard Dog: The Dobermans guarding the junkyard at the end of the film.
  • Armor-Piercing Response:
    George: Come on. My dream is going down the drain and you're worried about a dog.
    Alice: Our family is going down the drain and you're worried about a dream.
  • Artistic License – Animal Care: There is so much wrong with the way Dr. Varnick runs his practice that anyone with knowledge of veterinary care is going to either laugh uncontrollably or Facepalm throughout the film. Some of it crosses over into Artistic License – Law, to boot. Some of it can be hand waved on account of him being, y'know, evil and obviously willing to lie to achieve his goals, but not all of it.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Beethoven gives bacon to the stray dog who helped him escape from the Varnick's goons as a puppy.
  • Bedmate Reveal: Beethoven keeps climbing into bed with George, who is far from amused.
  • Big "NO!": George screams this as the mud-soaked Beethoven shakes himself dry, getting George all wet.
  • Big Sister Instinct: When Ryce realizes that Emily had fallen into the babysitter's pool, then sees that the babysitter is trying to get Emily to keep the accident a secret, she immediately calls Alice to pick the kids up.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Dr. Varnick acts nice to people, but deep down, he's a son of a bitch of the highest order.
  • Brick Joke: At the beginning, a biker woman comes into the pet shop, saying she has a big junkyard and needs a big junkyard dog. She rejects the St. Bernard puppy after he pees on her and exclaims "You got any pit bulls?" Much later in the film, when Dr. Varnick's goons flee the dogs, they take cover in a big junkyard, occupied by four big dobermans.
  • Butt-Monkey: George gets the brunt of Beethoven's mischief.
  • Car Fu: Ted crashes the family station wagon into the bad guys' warehouse.
  • Cassandra Truth: From a window, little Emily sees Dr. Varnick hit Beethoven in order to provoke the dog to lunge forward. Varnick then pulls the Wounded Gazelle Gambit detailed below. Because of Emily's age, the adults initially don't believe her, but when Alice sees that Emily sticks to the story no matter what on top of having never accused an adult of lying before, she convinces George to investigate the situation.
  • Child Hater: George's Jerkass clients who are a married couple with careers.
  • Comic-Book Time: There's a seven-year gap between Beethoven's 2nd and Beethoven's 3rd, but they apparently take place in immediate succession. So evidently the world just randomly jumps from the early '90s to the early '00s.
  • Cool Old Lady: If she wasn't so criminally negligent, the babysitter could come across as this. Her idea of entertaining the kids is to play "Lady Marmalade" on the organ for them.
  • Creator Cameo: Transportation coordinator Craig Pinkard has a minor role as a homeless man who befriends Sparky, a Jack Russell terrier who helped Beethoven escape from Harvey and Vernon.
  • Cruella to Animals: Dr. Varnick uses poor, innocent dogs for his deadly animal experiments and he wants to test a new type of bullets on Beethoven, something he expresses with perverse pleasure.
  • Dirty Coward: Harvey and Vernon. Both run from the dogs they stole, then hold hands in fear when the doberman pinschers attack them in the junkyard.
  • Even the Dog Is Ashamed: When George goes to the vet to have Beethoven put down, you see three dogs with their owners in the waiting room as he exits. All three of said dogs look away from George and/or whimper at him.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Ryce comments on the "perfection" of her secret crush's girlfriend.
  • Everybody Cries: Ryce, Ted, and Emily cry just before Beethoven is sent to be put down after Dr. Varnick fakes a dog attack in order to label Beethoven as a dangerous dog.
  • Fanservice Extra: There is a lingering shot of Beethoven jumping over a reclining bikini girl.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Dr. Varnick wears a pair of glasses, and is a very bad guy.
  • Freudian Excuse: George's reason for his hostility towards Beethoven. While driving Beethoven to be put down, George tells him how he hated his own dad for taking his dog away.
  • Funny Background Event: If you watch closely during the scene where all the dogs freed from Dr. Varnick's lab chase his mooks through a market, a golden retriever picks up an entire cabbage in its mouth and spends the rest of the scene hanging onto it.
  • Groin Attack: Dr. Varnick gets this visited upon him by another dog.
  • Hidden Depths: George, after seemingly finding every reason to dislike Beethoven throughout most of the movie, reveals that he is still bitter because of his father taking his old family dog to the vet to be euthanized, and regrets that he thought he had to do the same to Beethoven (and having the same resentment from his own kids). Thankfully, as soon as he realizes that Dr. Varnick is corrupt, he does everything possible to save Beethoven.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: A variation of it. George was told by the secretary that Beethoven will be put down in a couple of days. Later when he return to the vet with his family to take back Beethoven, Dr. Varnick told him he was already put down. They knew he was lying.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: George opposes adopting Beethoven—saying he's a cute little puppy for now but will grow to be enormous, drool everywhere and wreck the house. The following montage of Beethoven wrecking the house shows George was on point.
  • Kindly Vet: Completely averted; Dr. Herman Varnick is an utterly dirty veterinarian.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Dr. Varnick, who spent a lot of time injecting experimental chemicals into dogs, gets pumped full of his own chemicals. And his henchmen, who spend a lot of the movie being cruel to dogs, get mauled by Dobermans.
  • Mooks: The two characters played by Stanley Tucci (Vernon) and Oliver Platt (Harvey).
  • My God, What Have I Done?: George is hit with this after he leaves Beethoven with Dr. Varnick to be put down after the alleged attack; having wished constantly for his mischievous pet to be out of his life, George realizes that he wasn't that bad after all.
  • My Significance Sense Is Tingling: Beethoven sensed Emily was about to fall into the pool and ran to the rescue.
  • Never My Fault: The babysitter tries to gloss over her negligence by claiming that the fault lies with Emily for wandering off. Alice is not impressed.
    • Sal DeMargo in Big Break.
  • Oh, Crap!: The two mooks upon realizing that they just tried to take shelter in a junkyard...one patrolled by some very vicious Dobermans.
  • Papa Wolf: Don't cross George Newton. He may not look like it, but he is very protective of his kids and his dog.
  • Pet's Homage Name: Beethoven himself was named after the composer when he seemed to react positively to Emily playing Beethoven's 5th Symphony on the piano.
  • Police Are Useless: When George tries to report Dr. Varnick to the police and tells them about him faking being attacked by Beethoven as an excuse to take him, the police responder replies with 'So what?'
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Harvey isn't anywhere close to a likeable guy, but he isn't close to being the sadist that Dr. Varnick and Vernon are.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: George really lays one on Beethoven, failing to comprehend why his family likes a sniffing and drooling creature better than him. Maybe if he paid more attention to them than his career obsession to raise more capital, hence his obliviousness to Brad and Brie's plans to eventually take over his business, it wouldn't seem that way so much.
  • Redemption Rejection: Harvey appears to contemplate a Heel–Face Turn when he learns that Dr. Varnick wants them destroy the dogs along with all the other evidence. Then he shrugs and gets back to work.
  • Rich Bitch: Regina in Beethoven's 2nd.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: One of Dr. Varnick's henchmen, when Beethoven broke free.
  • Soft Glass: George enters the bad guys' warehouse through a skylight.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Harvey and Vernon, Dr. Varnick's two henchmen.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Dr Varnick's dim-witted thieves.
    • Dr. Vernick himself. Upright and uncapped is not how you place a syringe when you aren't using it!
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: A local pet store is robbed of several dozen of its puppies and the authorities don't know what became of them. George places dozens of lost dog posters for Beethoven when he wanders into their home for the first time. Nobody in town makes the connection that he's one of the stolen pups.
  • Urine Trouble: Beethoven as a puppy pees on a biker woman who considered adopting him, until he did that to her.
  • Vile Villain, Laughable Lackey: The veterinarian's goons' bumbling and cowardice were Played for Laughs, but the veterinarian himself was not.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Alice calls George out for caring more about about his dream than his own family. And his kids were mad at him for taking Beethoven to be put to sleep. Both are angry at his "unreasonable" hatred of Beethoven from the start and for always looking for "excuses" to get rid of him.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Dr. Varnick pulls this on Beethoven by pouring fake blood on his arm to make it look like Beethoven attacked him so he'll have an excuse to have him euthanized with the threat to press charges otherwise. Thankfully, it backfires against him later since Emily saw the whole thing and when George goes to confront him, his arm isn't covered in a cast or stitches and doesn't even have any bite marks.
  • "You!" Exclamation: George shouts this at Beethoven after coming home on a rainy day to find his house completely trashed and the mud-soaked dog lying on his and Alice's bed. Beethoven stands and shake himself dry, eliciting a Big "NO!" from George.

Tropes specific to Beethoven's 2nd:

  • Award-Bait Song: "The Day I Fall In Love" by James Ingram and Dolly Parton.
  • Batman in My Basement: After rescuing Missy's puppies, the children hide them in the basement, knowing that George would not allow them to stay if he knew. He inevitably finds out, but is eventually won over.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Ryce's handsome and seemingly nice boyfriend Taylor shows his true colors when he locks her in his room so she can't escape his sexual advances.
  • Climbing Climax: Of sorts. The final confrontation takes place on the edge of a cliff in the mountains, with Floyd threatening to drop one of Beethoven's puppies over the edge. Beethoven saves his puppies and his human owners by causing Floyd and Regina to fall over the edge.
  • Cruella to Animals: Played straight with Regina, to the point where she comes across as something of an Expy of Cruella de Vil. She initially wants to get rid of Beethoven's puppies by any means necessary, and only decides not to drown them when she finds out that they're purebred and worth a bunch of money.
  • Date Rape Averted: Taylor locks Ryce in his room with him, but she is saved from being sexually assaulted when Beethoven destroys half of the house, causing Taylor to fall into the lake below.
  • Derailing Love Interests: At one point Ryce can't decide between two boys, Seth and Taylor, before the latter removes her dilemma by revealing himself to be a potential rapist.
  • Disney Villain Death: Subverted. Floyd and Regina fall from a potentially fatal height off a cliff, but survive by landing in a muddy pool.
  • Eating Contest: George and Beethoven participate in one, and win.
  • Feet-First Introduction: Regina is introduced this way as she arrives to claim Missy from Brillo.
  • Foil:
    • Animal Lover Nice Guy Brillo, who dotes on his dog Missy and buys her ice-creams, is one to his ex-wife, the conniving, greedy Regina who sees Missy and the puppies only in terms of how they can benefit her financially.
    • Ryce's two love interests Seth and Taylor are this to each other: Seth appears at first glance to be a reckless Bad Boy, but is eventually revealed to be a genuine Nice Guy who actually cares about Ryce, while Taylor appears to be a handsome Nice Guy with a slight penchant for womanizing, but is eventually revealed to be a predatory Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, who traps Ryce in his room with the intention of having his way with her – whether she wants to or not.
  • Foreshadowing: Beethoven saves Ryce from danger by causing her would-be attacker to fall from a height into water. At the climax of the movie, he saves his human and dog families from danger by causing their would-be attackers to fall from a high cliff into a muddy pool, ultimately resulting in them being washed down the river.
  • Fresh Clue: As the Newtons are tracking their dogs, they happen to find some dog poo that likely belongs to one of the dogs. To find out when they left it there, Ryce sticks a finger in it to feel if it's still warm. It is.
  • Groin Attack: Beethoven delivers one to Floyd in retaliation for the latter threatening one of his puppies and assaulting George with a stick.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: When Floyd pokes George with a stick, Beethoven charges the stick to ram the other end into Floyd's groin, pushing him (along with Regina) off the edge of the cliff.
  • Icy Blue Eyes / Creepy Blue Eyes: Regina has a pair of chilly blue eyes, which is fitting for her cruel behavior.
  • The Igor: Floyd fills this role for Regina.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • The almost excessively adorable scene in which Brillo feeds Missy and Beethoven ice-creams is interrupted by the sinister Feet-First Introduction of Regina who has come to break up the fun.
    • Similarly, the heartwarming reunion of Beethoven and Missy with their puppies on the cliff top is darkened when the villains arrive.
  • Negative Continuity: Ambiguously. The test dogs George adopted at the end of the first movie are not present in this one, although it's possible that he only kept them temporarily until someone else could be found to adopt them.
  • Nice Guy: Seth, in contrast to Ryce's previous boyfriend Taylor.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Several of the minor antagonists do this:
    • Thanks to the bully who harasses Janie, Ted (with Beethoven's help) has an opportunity to impress her by scaring him away, which induces her to return Ted's previously unrequited interest.
    • In the previous scene, the Jerkass teen boys who pour beer over Beethoven provoke him to run forward, detaching the support pillar he's tied to, which destroys the front of the house and saves Ryce from being raped by Taylor.
  • Offscreen Karma: Although Regina is seen to be punished physically (falling off a cliff and being washed down the river), her ultimate comeuppance, the loss of her court case against Brillo, happens off-screen and is reported by Brillo to the heroes.
  • Papa Wolf: Beethoven for his pups. When one of his sons was threatened, he didn't hesitate to ram a tree branch in Floyd's crotch. He also looks out for his humans, especially George.
  • Pet's Homage Name: In keeping with the tradition, one of Beethoven's puppies is named Tchaikovsky.
  • Surprise Litter of Puppies: The kids are surprised to learn that Beethoven has a St. Bernard girlfriend and several purebred puppies.
  • Take My Hand: A possible moment when Floyd is teetering on the cliff-edge and he and Regina grab each other's hands; the result is that both of them fall over the edge.
  • The Talk: Ted and Emily need George to be distracted so they can sneak Beethoven's puppies into the house. Emily asks George where babies come from and it works perfectly. After he's been desperately trying to tell her in a way that's both pretty honest and as non-sexual as he can muster, she finally ends it with, "You don't really understand this, do you, Dad?" and walks away.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • The drunken teen partyers who dump beer on Beethoven for their own amusement; this leads to Beethoven collapsing the entire house where the party is at, sending everyone into the lake! (And saving Ryce from a dangerous situation in the process)
    • Floyd, especially when he threatens George with a stick in the presence of Beethoven.
  • Trick-and-Follow Ploy: Regina and Floyd use the puppies this way to lead them up the mountain to Beethoven and Missy.
  • Vile Villain, Laughable Lackey: Floyd's stupidity was Played for Laughs, but his greedy girlfriend was much more cruel and intentional than he was.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Regina and Floyd really go off the deep end (pun intended) after falling off a cliff into mud, turning on each other. The sniping and insults continue even as they are washed down the river into the distance, as the Newtons look on from the clifftop.
  • Wild Teen Party: Ryce's would-be rape in takes place at such a party. The other teens there are all drinking beer because they are Bad, but Ryce refuses to have any because she is a Good Girl.
  • Wrong Guy First: Would-be rapist Taylor for Ryce; she ends up with genuine Nice Guy Seth instead.

Tropes specific to subsequent films:

  • Desperate Object Catch: Played for Laughs with Beethoven's drool in one of the sequels.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Beethoven in the third movie. All the damage he causes is a result of protecting the family from a pair of dumbass criminals.
  • It's All About Me: Sal DeMargo in Big Break.
  • Jedi Mind Trick: Hilariously attempted in the third movie as one of the criminals tries desperately to use this on the cops to avoid getting arrested. Needless to say, it doesn't work.
  • Put on a Bus: The entire Newton family after the second film, having passed Beethoven on to their relatives from the third movie onward.
  • Prince and Pauper: Whole plot of Beethoven's 4th.
  • Suddenly Speaking: In Beethoven's Christmas Adventure (the seventh movie), Beethoven can now speak (with the voice of Tom Arnold).
  • Those Two Bad Guys:
    • Tommy and Bill in Beethoven's 3rd.
    • Sal DeMargo's henchmen in Big Break.
  • Toilet-Drinking Dog Gag: The opening of the fourth movie has one scene where Beethoven drinks from a toilet — then when he finishes and leaves, he accidentally pulls the toilet seat off and gets it hung around his neck (which is where the image on the film's cover comes from). This becomes an issue when Beth tries to use the toilet immediately afterward....
  • Toilet Humor: Beethoven's Christmas Adventure includes a scene of Beethoven and another dog farting for almost a solid minute.


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