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Film / Beethoven

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A series of family comedy films 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, who had previously produced and/or directed such films as Meatballs, Stripes, Ghostbusters (1984), Twins, Kindergarten Cop, Dave, Junior, and Six Days Seven Nights. It was also originally 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 of The Nanny fame), 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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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.


Provides Examples Of:

  • Adult Fear: In the first film. 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. Vernick tells George how Beethoven might become aggressive.
  • Angry Guard Dog: The Dobermans guarding the junkyard at the end of the first film.
  • Armor-Piercing Response: From the first movie:
    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: 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.
    • There is so much wrong with the way Dr. Vernick 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.
  • Award-Bait Song: The second movie has "The Day I Fall In Love" by James Ingram and Dolly Parton.
  • 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. George is certainly NOT amused in the first film.
  • Big Eater: Beethoven, who is often looking for food and annihilates a holiday turkey in one scene.
  • Big, Friendly Dog: The titular character.
  • Big "NO!": George screams this as the mud-soaked Beethoven shakes himself dry, getting George all wet.
  • 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 of the first movie, 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 in the first movie.
  • 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 Jerk Ass 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 in the first film could come across as this. Her idea of entertaining the kids is to play "Lady Marmalade" on the piano for them.
  • 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.
    • Played straighter with Regina in the second movie. 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: Happens to Ryce in Beethoven's 2nd.
  • Desperate Object Catch: Played for Laughs with Beethoven's drool in one of the sequels.
  • 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.
  • Eating Contest: George and Beethoven participate in one in the second movie.
  • Even the Dog Is Ashamed: In the first movie, 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: In the first movie, 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.
  • Fresh Clue: In Beethoven's 2nd, 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.
  • 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.
    • Also what happens to Floyd, Regina's henchman, in the second movie.
  • 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.
  • Hidden Depths: George, after seemingly finding every reason to dislike Beethoven throughout most of the first 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.
  • Icy Blue Eyes / Creepy Blue Eyes: Regina in the second movie has a pair of chilly blue eyes, which is fitting for her cruel behavior.
  • The Igor: Floyd in Beethoven's 2nd.
  • It's All About Me: Sal DeMargo in Big Break.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: In the first movie, 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 had a point.
  • Kindly Vet: Completely averted in the first movie; 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.
  • 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.
  • 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: In the first film, Beethoven sensed Emily was about to fall into the pool and ran to the rescue.
  • Negative Continuity: At the end of Beethoven, George adopts all the test dogs at the end. This is ignored in the sequel.
    • Though they probably didn't adopt them, but let them stay until they got adopted.
  • Never My Fault: The babysitter in the first film 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 from the first movie upon realizing that they just tried to take shelter in a junkyard...one patrolled by some very vicious Dobermans.
  • 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.
  • Papa Wolf: Don't cross George Newton. He may not look like it, but he is very protective of his kids and his dog.
    • Beethoven in the sequel 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: Beethoven himself was named after the composer when he seemed to react positively to Emily playing Beethoven's 5th Symphony on the piano. In Beethoven's 2nd, in keeping with the tradition, one of his puppies is named Tchaikovsky.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: George really lays one on Beethoven in the first film, 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.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Averted in the first two movies. The Newton siblings regularly do activities together and rarely squabble despite their different ages.
  • Soft Glass: George enters the bad guys' warehouse through a skylight in the first movie.
  • Suddenly Voiced: In Beethoven's Christmas Adventure (the seventh movie), Beethoven can now speak (with the voice of Tom Arnold).
  • Surprise Litter of Puppies: In the second movie, the kids are surprised to learn that Beethoven has a St. Bernard girlfriend and several purebred puppies.
  • The Talk: In the second film, 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.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Harvey and Vernon, Dr. Varnick's two henchmen.
    • Tommy and Bill in Beethoven's 3rd.
    • Sal DeMargo's henchmen in Big Break.
  • Toilet Humor: Beethoven's Christmas Adventure includes a scene of Beethoven farting for almost a solid minute.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Dr Varnick's dim-witted thieves in the first film.
    • Floyd in Beethoven's 2nd.
    • Dr. Vernick himself. Upright and uncapped is not how you place a syringe when you aren't using it!
    • The drunken teen partyers in Beethoven's 2nd, 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)
  • 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.
  • Vile Villain, Laughable Lackey:
    • In the first movie, the veterinarian's goons' bumbling and cowardice were Played for Laughs, but the veterinarian himself was not.
    • In the second movie, Floyd's stupidity was Played for Laughs, but his greedy girlfriend was much more cruel and intentional than he was.
  • 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.
  • Wild Teen Party: Ryce's would-be rape in Beethoven's 2nd 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.
  • 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 in the first movie 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, much to George's further disgust.

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