Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Doggone It

Director: Brian Levant
Cast: Charles Grodin, Bonnie Hunt, Dean Jones, Stanley Tucci, Oliver Platt, David Duchonvy, Patricia Heaton, Nicholle Tom, Christopher Castile, Sarah Rose Karr
Released: April 3, 1992

When you hear the name "Beethoven" and think of a St. Bernard before the dead classical composer, then you might be a child of the early '90s. I remember seeing this in theaters...I think my dad took my brother and me. Seeing it again in a very long time, I forgot how dark (especially for a kids' film!) it is! I remembered there's a bad guy and that Charles Grodin, who was the only one in the family who doesn't care for the dog, saves Beethoven from said bad guy. However, I didn't remember that the bad guy was going to flat out MURDER the dog; my memory was foggy and I thought he was either dognapping or at the worst, going to injure Beethoven. When I realized what the bad guy's motives were, I was like, Holy crap, THIS is in a kids' film??? But we'll get to that later. This movie gets SUPER DARK, y'all!

But first...let's start with something everyone loves....PUPPIES! We first meet our dog hero (whose name isn't Beethoven just yet) as a puppy in a pet store. Oh. My. God. HE IS SO FRICKIN' CUTE!!!!  Cuuuuute! Suuuuuper Cuuuuuuuute! I want a St. Bernard puppy! They're so adorable! I mean, what is wrong with Charles Grodin? How could he not want this dog? But before the dog meets his new family, he is first dognapped by two bumbling minions (Oliver Platt and Stanley Tucci) who are working for the bad guy who wants them to bring him puppies. Two dogs manage to escape: the St. Bernard puppy and a Jack Russell terrier. The bad guys chase them, both dogs get away and go their separate ways. The next morning the St. Bernard follows Charles Grodin into his home as he's getting the newspaper and he's so preoccupied looking at it, that he doesn't even notice the puppy. His wife (Bonnie Hunt) and two oldest children don't notice the dog either, but when he hops into the youngest daughter's bed, she hugs the puppy and when her mom and siblings see her, she exclaims, "Look! I dreamt I had a puppy and it came true!"

Bonnie Hunt and the three Newton kids (who include 13-year-old Ryce (Nicholle Tom aka the oldest kid on The Nanny); 10/11-year-old Ted (Christopher Castile aka Suzanne Somer's son on Step by Step); and 4/5-year old Emily (Sarah Rose Karr), want to keep the puppy, but Charles Grodin isn't too keen on the idea, but finally gives in when they tell him it will teach them responsibility. He tells them they're only keeping the dog until they can find the owner (good luck with that, Charle Grodin!)

The Newtons are trying to come up with a name for the newest addition of their family and nobody can agree with anything. Ryce wants to name the dog MC Hammer (terrible) and Ted wants to name him Ultimate Warrior (stupid). Finally, when Emily plays a few chords of Beethoven's (the composer!) Symphony Number 5, the puppy barks along to it. You know, the one that goes da-da-da-da! I'll sing my cat's name to those notes when I talk to him, "Mi-mi-mi-lo!" They take that as a sign and the puppy is christened "Beethoven".

Oh, hell no! 
I have to wonder, though, if the name "Beethoven" was chosen for the dog because of the song, "Roll Over, Beethoven", which will be played in a montage scene. I can see it now in the pitch meeting: they already have the idea for the movie, they just don't know what to name the dog. Someone says, Hey, you know that Chuck Berry song, "Roll Over, Beethoven?" Well, dogs roll over so let's call the dog Beethoven and we can use that song in a montage!" I bet you exactly that's how it happened! Of course during the montage (where we see Beethoven grow from a puppy to a full grown adult), we see the kids having fun with the dog while Charles Grodin is cleaning up after him. There's a funny scene where he's just come in from the rain and there are muddy paw prints on the front and back of his clothes. The montage ends with an extremely muddy and wet Beethoven (btw, not a cute look for any dog!) on the master bed and when Charles Grodin comes in and shouts "YOU!", Beethoven gets up and in slow motion we see him shake all the water, mud, and dog drool all over the place. It's really gross. I would have been so mad! Speaking of dog drool, my memory of it is that there was a lot more, but they really only show it a couple times during the montage. Maybe I was thinking of Turner and Hooch; doesn't that dog drool an excessive amount? (I just looked back at my review for that movie and just answered my own question! Yes, that dog drools a lot).

Beethoven sleeps in his doghouse which is inside its own little fenced in area in the backyard. However, he has dug a hole (which is super obvious, but yet nobody knows about it) and when the kids are at school, he meanders through town, getting treats and pats from the local people. You can tell this is an everyday occurrence because everybody seems to be expecting him. Beethoven gets a treat at a bakery and we see him bring it to a back alley where he gives it to the Jack Russell Terrier who had escaped from the dognappers with him and is now making his life on the streets as a homeless dog. I was super impressed they got a dog to carry a treat in his mouth without eating it! Beethoven visits a park where he shares an ice cream cone with a little girl. It's super gross; he slobbers all over it and she willingly puts it in her mouth!

Beethoven is a super smart dog. He seems to understand the English language (and more than just "Sit!" or "Stay!") and we will see this throughout a few times. One of the first times is when he comes to meet Ryce at the end of school (who doesn't seem at all surprised to see her dog, so this must be a regular thing too) and when she starts telling him about Mark, the boy she likes, and how he likes this other girl who's super popular, Beethoven grabs a stick and walks over to Mark and brings him over to Ryce. Ryce is ecstatic that he knows her name (of course he does; your name is Ryce! Who would forget a name like that) and exclaims quite loudly, TWICE, "He knows my name!" Honey, why don't you at least wait until he's out of earshot? Oh, here's the best part: this so-called "most popular girl in school" was wearing a completely dorky outfit: a pink sweatshirt with white hearts on the bottom and pink jeans with blue, purple, and white flowers. Even I wouldn't be caught dead in this atrocious outfit in the early '90s. (Although I'm sure I wore some pretty terrible stuff!)

Charles Grodin is in the air freshener business and he has a snooty married couple (played by a pre-Everybody Loves Raymond Patricia Heaton and a pre-The X-Files David Duchovny) who want to invest in his firm and who are trying to swindle him. When Charles Grodin invites them over to a barbecue at his house to sign the papers, we learn about this when the Newtons are out of earshot and the couple are talking, but luckily Beethoven is in the yard and he hears every word...and seems to understand what they're saying! He's on a long leash to roam around in the backyard and winds it around the table the snooty couple are sitting at. When Charles Grodin throws a ball for him to chase so he'll leave them alone, he ends up taking the table and the two chairs the couple are sitting at with him and they fly over the fence when Beethoven jumps over it. It is absolutely ridiculous, but maybe not as ridiculous as another scene where Beethoven sneaks into the house one night and gets in the bed before Charles Grodin gets back in after investigating things. What Charles Grodin doesn't know is that his wife is in the bathroom, so when Beethoven starts licking his ear, he thinks it's her. Okay, seriously, how do you confuse your wife with your dog??? Dogs tongues are absolutely can tell a dog's tongue from a human tongue.  And there are other ways you can tell. He dismisses the smell by thinking it's him since he spends so much time around Beethoven cleaning up after him. Yes, very stupid scene and seemed highly inappropriate for a kids' movie!

Bonnie Hunt is going back to work and has the kids go to an older woman's house in their neighborhood even though Ryce is old enough to watch after her younger siblings. The woman likes to sing showtunes and while she and the two older kids are inside doing their homework, little Emily is outside playing with a bouncy ball by the pool. The camera ligers on the pool for a second so you know something is going to happen, like, I don't know, the little girl is going to fall in it! Well, guess what? She does! She screams for help and Beethoven saves her. I was confused by the geographic layout of where they were. At first I though their backyard faced the baby-sitter's backyard and that's how Beethoven saw her, but that doesn't seem to be the case as he runs along a sidewalk, then jumps over a few fences. He must have really good hearing. After he brings Emily to the pool steps, she tells him he needs to go home since he might get in trouble for leaving the yard. As far as I know, she will never tell anyone that if it hadn't been for Beethoven, she may have drowned. Remember that. I thought it was a bit unbelievable that her siblings didn't notice their little sister thrashing around in the pool. Yes, I know the piano was (supposedly) drowning (haha, unintended pun!) out her screams, but they were right in front of the glass door and while they weren't looking outside directly, there is something called peripheral vision and they would have definitely noticed! In fact, Ryce only has to tilt her head a fraction when she notices Emily sitting on the pool steps after Beethoven has rescued her. (I guess they thought she managed to swim to the steps). Needless to say, the woman is fired.

I haven't even touched on the bad guy yet! So the bad guy (Dean Jones) is...get this...a VET. Not just any vet, but Beethoven's vet. He is in cahoots with a gun manufacture who wants him to acquire a dog with a large skull (like a St. Bernard) and SHOOT IT IN THE HEAD to see "how messy it is". WHAT. THE. F**K!!!! What kind of sick bulls*** is this? This is in a kids' movie?!? Wow, good thing I didn't remember this or maybe it just went right over my head, cuz this movie should have traumatized me as a kid! This seems vey extreme...why can't they just shoot a watermelon to see how much of a mess the bullet makes? Why do they even need to know "how messy it is"? After Beethoven has a routine checkup with Dr. Evil Vet, he wants to keep the dog overnight for "observations", but the kids say no, that he'll be too scared. He does put a seed in Charles Grodin's head that St. Bernards can be dangerous dogs and to watch him closely. Here's what I don't understand about Dr. Evil Vet: did he become a vet after he went into this shady business? He is being paid (seemingly) lots of money to murder dogs, but why would you go through veterinary school for all of that? Was he already a vet when he was approached with this offer and because he is so greedy, he has no qualms about murdering one (or more!) of his client's pets? I'm very confused...and troubled about this whole thing. I was listening to a podcast about this movie and the hosts were saying this should have been a test for vets to see if their license should be renewed or not. The gun would be a blank and if you actually went through with it and shot at the dog, you would be dismissed as a vet! Might I add, that they should also be sent to jail for attempted murder!

Dr. Evil Vet pays Beethoven a "home visit" telling Bonnie Hunt that he just wants to check on their dog to see if everything is okay. I would be highly suspicious because there is no reason for a vet to pay a home visit, especially if there is nothing wrong with the animal, as in their case, but she just lets him into the yard. Nobody is paying any attention except for Emily who is playing upstairs in her room. (With a stuffed St. Bernard animal! It is so cute! Ryce is a bit of a traitor as she has a poster of a dalmatian in her room. ) The Evil Vet puts fake blood on his arm. I don't think Emily saw that part, but she defintely saw the moment when he hits Beethoven (obviously filmed in a way where the dog isn't actually hit). He eggs Beethoven on to attack him and when he does, the Evil Vet calls for help and everyone comes running out. Emily tells her parents that she saw him hit their dog, but Evil Vet dismisses her by saying of course she would want to defend her dog. He tells the Newton parents that they must surrender their dog and he must be put down at once! While they're not happy with this news, they do what the man says without any questions. At this point I'm thinking, why isn't Emily telling them that Beethoven saved her life? Also, don't they think it's a little weird that they've never once had a problem with their dog, but all of a sudden this vet makes an unannounced house call to "check on their dog" and allegedly gets attacked by him while unsupervised? Also, why aren't they listening to their own daughter? Bonnie Hunt will bring this up to her husband after they've surrendered Beethoven. I understand if you think your dog is dangerous, you definitely don't want him around your children, but I think they should have gotten a second opinion! I thought it was a little weird that they didn't put a muzzle on Beethoven when Charles Grodin drives him to the vet to be put down. At this point, they think he's just attacked their vet, so if you think he's dangerous, why are you just letting him ride in the backseat of your car? Charles Grodin does seem genuinely upset that he has to put down the family pet. The receptionist tells him that they won't put down the dog until the next day, so he will have to pay for an overnight stay. There is a bit of a humorous moment in this depressing scene where all the dogs in the waiting room look down at the floor when Charles Grodin walks past them as if they know why he's there. When he returns home, his kids won't look or talk to him except Emily who calls him a "Dog killer!"

Bonnie Hunt tells him that she thinks they were too rash and they should go and talk to the vet. The kids, who were eavesdropping, tell them they're going too. When they get to the home of Dr. Evil Vet (how did they even know where he lives?), they see he has no fake bandage on his arm like he was wearing when Beethoven was taken to the vet earlier that day and there are no bite marks on his arm. The vet tells him it's too late; that the dog has already been put down, but Charles Grodin knows it's a lie and they follow him to his lab. Charles Grodin climbs up to the roof with a glass ceiling and right when the evil vet is pointing the gun at Beethoven, he jumps through the glass and right on top of Dr. Evil Vet. He's about to shoot the gun at Charles Grodin, but the Jack Russell Terrier (who was caught earlier in the movie) saves the day by running up and biting Evil Vet in the groin. And if you think that's the worst thing that happens to him, think again! The kids are still in the car, waiting for their mom who is calling the police. When they hear gunshots, Ted drives the car through the wall and hits a table that sends fifteen syringes filled with god-knows-what flying and they all land in the chest of Dr. Evil Vet, who somehow manages to survive this. I don't think so. However, the evil vet's minions are still loose and all the caught dogs (who are freed by the kids) run after them. We're supposed to think the dogs are menacing and are out for vengeance, but in reality these are cute and friendly dogs who just want to play. I laughed so hard when they run through an outdoor market and a bunch of cabbages roll out on the sidewalk and one of the dogs is running with a cabbage in his mouth! You can tell he just wants to play!

Beethoven is reunited with his family and at the end of the movie we see he is sleeping at the foot of the Newton parents' bed. The camera pans down and we see the Jack Russell Terrier that they've named Sparky. (If I had a dog, I would totally name it that). So I'm thinking, that's cute, they gave a new home to Beethoven's friend. But then the camera pulls down even further and we see that they have brought home ALL of the dogs. I think it's safe to say they brought them to the Humane Society the next day. They also probably double checked the credentials for Beethoven's new vet!

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