Universal // 2008 // 101 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 2nd, 2009
Apparently the Beethoven franchise still has some slobber left in it.
Eddie (Jonathan Silverman, Weekend at Bernie's) is an animal trainer trying to earn a living in Hollywood. He's also a single dad raising an aggressively disobedient young boy who won't think twice about bringing a gigantic stray St. Bernard into the house and destroying the kitchen. But the dog -- that would be Beethoven -- proves to be Eddie's ticket to the big leagues.
When the canine star of a Hollywood feature comedy goes missing, a chance encounter leads the filmmakers to fall in love with Beethoven and the big dumb idiot is given the headlining role. Now it's up to Eddie to domesticate the slobbering beast, all while trying to keep his moody kid happy, courting the lovely screenwriter, assuaging the anxiety of the temperamental producer (Rhea Perlman) and keeping an evil dog-napper and his henchmen from taking Beethoven.
This is, what, the 80th or so Beethoven movie? The dog's got legs, for sure. The good news, for all you lovers of giant canines running around wrecking @#$%, is that the latest adventure of everyone's favorite depth-perception-challenged St. Bernard isn't too shabby. While it's formula through and through and is in desperate need of a wit infusion, Beethoven's Big Break will almost certainly satisfy its young target audience.
The story is actually marginally more clever that I expected, the closest you'll get to a meta-Beethoven movie. The kids won't notice or care and maybe they haven't even seen the original film (of which there are more than a few nods to tucked into this release). But let's be honest, the plot is all about stringing together scenes where Beethoven can run amok, destroying things.
A handful of recognizable faces populate the saga. Jonathan Silverman returns from his refuge on the Island of Lost B-List Stars from the 1980s to turn in a rudimentary, yet charming performance as Hapless Guy Who Happens to Be a Widower Menaced by a Giant Dog. There's a love interest tossed in here, too, and that's dandy, but when it comes to these cutesy kids movies, there is one role that can make or break the experience: the kid himself. Nothing is as irritating as a jackass kid that whines from the first frame on. Thankfully, Moises Arias, the actor tasked with the kid role, isn't one of those and despite Billy's flashes of dickheadedness, I never thought Eddie should have taken the belt to him with vigor.
Finally, you've got the dog, who does his thing, usually with human characters that are more than willing to accommodate Beethoven's high jinks. Most of these goofy set-pieces are of course cartoonish and contrived (Hey look! Beethoven wedged himself under Rhea Perlman's chair and is carrying her around on his back! Ha, she's little!), and that's par for the course, but a special shout-out to the scene with Jonathan Silverman being dragged on his lawn chair by Beethoven, which not only defies the laws of physics, but common sense; hey, buddy, just let go of the chair and maybe you won't be castrated by that fence!
The dual-sided discs -- they still make these things?!? -- contains the anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen transfer on one side, the full frame on the other. Both are sharp-looking. A 5.1 surround mix is responsible for the wacky sound effects. The extra are unfortunately spread across both sides: a fun director's commentary (with Silverman and Arias sitting in), bloopers, a pair of deleted scenes, a segment on the dog training and a brief behind-the-scenes featurette.
It is what it is: a goofy, sometimes contrived, but occasionally fun little PG-rated family comedy.
Not guilty. This bark doesn't bite. Cha-ching!
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Deleted Scenes
* Gag Reel