Slobber and Drool is not the name of a hot new Hollywood PR firm, but they are the most visible attributes of Beethoven, a massive St. Bernard who was
put on this planet to make the button-down life of George Newton (Grodin) miserable. Neurotic, fastidious and Day-Timered enough to make the average anal retentive seem like a disorganized layabout, Newton lives in a sanitized suburb. His martinet lifestyle grates on his wife and three kids.
To someone like Newton, Beethoven is a three-dog nightmare rolled up into one cute little puppy. On the lam from a mad veternarian (Dean Jones) who conducts experiments on animals, Beethoven worms his way into the affections of the Newton children with no effort whatsoever. He will surely have the same effect on kids in the audience. But Beethoven grows up - even if Beethoven is content to stay cheerfully juvenile. And a 160-pound romping rampage soon rules the Newton household.
Beethoven comes up with every conceivable variation on this joke. But if, like George Newton, you feel your patience wearing thin, there is no denying the canine charisma of Beethoven. Literally sent to the doghouse by Newton, Beethoven escapes for assorted adventures involving the children and weak subplots connected to Jones' lab and a couple of caricature yuppies.
If the effort sometimes seems, well, dogged, Beethoven remains an amiable and unassuming family entertainment of the sort that is in very short supply these days. Even though Randy Edelman's score archly cites Beethoven's fourth
piano concerto, this one is for dog fanciers rather than music lovers.
Come to think of it, if Beethoven can get the flacks at Slobber and Drool to unleash the right promotional campaign, he could be in the running for the remake of Dog Day Afternoon and be even bigger - although that's admittedly hard to imagine.
BEETHOVEN * * 1/2
Produced by Joe Medjuck and Michael C. Gross, directed by Brian Levant, written by Edmond Dantes and Amy Holden Jones, photography by Victor Kemper, music by Randy Edelman, distributed by Universal Studios.
Running time: 1 hour, 29 mins.
George Newton - Charles Grodin
Alice Newton - Bonnie Hunt
Dr. Varnick - Dean Jones
Ryce - Nicholle Tom
Ted - Christopher Castile
Parent's guide: PG (drooling)
Showing at: area theaters