Universal // 2000 // 99 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Judge Norman Short (Retired) // July 24th, 2000
A big lovable dog who makes a big mess, shoved into a "Vacation" movie.
As the title suggests, this is the 3rd installment in the series of films starring Beethoven, a huge St. Bernard dog who makes a big mess yet is as smart as Lassie; often smarter than the humans surrounding him. Using characters created by John Hughes (Breakfast Club, Ferris Beuller's Day Off, Vacation), this film works off combining a disaster-fraught vacation film with the big, slobbery dog. There are good actors, some good performances, and some lovable kids and a dog, but the story is so over the top that it defeats the sweetness it tries to also show. The combination of sweet kid and dog picture with zany over the top gags doesn't quite gel into a great family film. A straight to video production, it's not terrible but it's not very good either. Universal does a fine job with the disc, however, with a terrific anamorphic transfer and sound, but with only a few extras.
There are some pretty good actors and even a decent performance or two in this family flick. Judge Reinhold (Beverly Hills Cop, Ruthless People) and Julie Sweeney of SNL fame team up as the hapless parents who get stuck taking a huge St. Bernard on a cross country trip in a motor home. And the kids were actually better than the parents. The subplot about the boy getting his gumption up to talk to a girl he finds traveling the same road was well done though completely predictable.
Since this section is looking a little lean I'll put the story synopsis here. Judge Reinhold is a dad who wants to give his kids the perfect vacation; a cross country trip in a rented motor home, with trips to see rocks that look like dog biscuits and sumo wrestlers doing a wild west show. They took along a DVD player and disc of The Shakiest Gun in the West which they think is broken, since it seems to be only showing computer code. What they don't know is two geeky nerds who seem to think they have Jedi Knight powers had planned to make a transfer of this stolen computer disc they thought nobody would ever rent by placing it inside the Don Knotts movie case. They didn't count on the family taking the disc on this trip, and the family didn't count on this huge crate showing up at the last minute, after agreeing to take "something" to California for a relative. That "something" of course is Beethoven, all 185 slobbering pounds of him. So here they go across the country, with the two geeks chasing them trying to get the disc back. That's pretty much it, except for lots of slapstick humor; sort of Beethoven meets Vacation meets Smokey and the Bandit.
The disc has Universal's usual high quality picture and sound, with a beautiful anamorphic transfer and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. Colors are bright, detail is sharp, artifacts nonexistent. The sound is fairly typical comedy fare, mostly front driven with only the score and a few ambient sounds in the rear. Still everything is clear and perfectly understood.
Unlike Universal's day and date releases, this straight to video release is given only scant extras; but the cast and crew info is thorough, the production notes are fine, and the trailer is trailery. Yes, I know "trailery" isn't a word.
The movie stinks. That is the short version. The plot is so very tired, staid, predictable, and boring that it was difficult to make it through. The villains were terrible Don Knotts wannabes, if Don Knotts were a Star Wars geek. They weren't funny and they weren't credible as villains, which leaves them nothing but pratfalls and looking stupid. Judge Reinhold and Julie Sweeney were completely wasted in roles that were played nearly straight, except as foils for dog fart jokes. The dog of course was made the most intelligent character in the movie, and unfortunately he got the best lines too, without saying any. I don't think anyone over the age of 13 could really like this. The fart jokes and "dog knocking stuff over and getting in trouble" scenes might be funny to some kids, but even there I wouldn't count on it.
Fans of the first two Beethoven films might like this, but I don't see how. It's safe for kids to watch and a few of them might laugh at the obvious humor attempts, but I couldn't. I can't really recommend the disc, though if you fit into the aforementioned group or have kids that are you might give it a rental.
Beethoven 3rd is sentenced to Saturday morning cable fare, but even there not for long before it disappears from the scene. Universal is acquitted for their usual performance in the picture and sound department, but I have to wonder why this film got picked at this time for release.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Rated G
* Cast and Crew Info
* Production Notes