1993, PG Directed by Rod Daniel. Starring Charles Grodin, Bonnie Hunt, Nicholle Tom, Christopher Castille, Debi Mazar, Chris Penn, Maury Chaykin.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Dec. 24, 1993
I never made much of an effort to catch the first Beethoven film -- after K-9, Bingo, and assorted others, I pretty much felt as though I'd seen enough shaggy dog stories for a while -- so I can't really say if this sequel is any better than the original, though I suspect it may be. The original premise, that of a lumbering St. Bernard coming to live with a suburban, all-American family is still in place, only this time love is in the air. Beethoven, it seems, has been sneaking out of the Newton household to rendezvous with his true love, Missy, an equally furry handful. In the process, the couple end up with a litter of four rambunctious offspring (and yes, they all have cute little puppy names, but why get into that?) that the Newton kids must hide from parents Grodin and Hunt. In some odd plot maneuvering, Missy is being played as a pawn in the divorce proceedings between her loving, rightful owner and his conniving, Cruella De Vil-ish ex-wife, and so it's up to the Newtons to keep Missy and her pups safely out of the way until the brouhaha passes. Producer Ivan Reitman's (Ghostbusters, Twins, Dave) stamp is all over this film; it's filled with cheery, goofball images of humorous familial high jinks and dog's-eye-view shots. Unlike John Hughes's (Home Alone) cinematic families -- which are all too often little more than thinly sketched Fox sitcom losers -- Reitman and director Daniel give us a family that actually resembles those we know in real life. Older sister Tom is discovering boys, as is younger brother Castille (well, actually, he's discovering girls), and mom and dad, though strapped for cash and teetering on the brink of starting up their own small business, still have the time (and emotional clarity) to dance on the dock at twilight. It's sweet and romantic and pretty funny most of the time, and what with all the puppies around, it's awfully hard not to just sit back and go “awwwwww.” Kids, especially younger ones, will love the canine misadventures, and adults should have no trouble stomaching the broad, good-natured humor. At the risk of sounding like Michael Medved, as far as so-called “family films” go, you really could do a lot worse. (see Hughes, John.)