Beethoven's Big Break

Beethoven’s Big Break is a direct to DVD “family film” that no family should be caught dead watching. In 1992, iconic writer/director John Hughes co-wrote the script for the slapstick comedy Beethoven and we are still paying for his mistake 16 years later. The surprise hit about a giant St. Bernard who ate, slobbered, and knocked people over was followed by four sequels (the last three direct to DVD) in the ten years following the first movie. After a five year break, the sixth installment, Beethoven’s Big Break, brings Beethoven the dog back to….eat, slobber, and knock people over.

The plot is standard direct to DVD fare. Single dad Eddie (Jonathan Silverman) is an assistant animal trainer on a movie production about a fru-fru dog. Although he has a wild menagerie of animals at his house, he tells his son Billy (Moises Arias) that he can’t have a dog. Of course, this makes no sense, but it doesn’t matter since Billy soon crosses paths with the huge, slobbery Beethoven and immediately brings him home.

Eddie plans to take Beethoven to the animal rescue center, but, when he stops at the movie studio to pick up some stuff, Beethoven gets loose and causes havoc drawing the attention of the film’s director (Eddie Griffin) and producer (Rhea Perlman). They decide to make a movie about Beethoven called….Beethoven. That’s right, they are making the original Beethoven movie from 1992. This allows them to repeat all the classic hijinks from that film, either on set or around Eddie’s house.

Most of the movie then consists of slapsticky stunts you’ve either seen in the previous Beethoven movies or can see coming a mile away. When a cake shows up, you know it’s going to end up in someone’s face. There are subplots involving three cute St. Bernard puppies that Eddie and Billy also adopt, Eddie wooing the film’s screenwriter, Lisa (Jennifer Finnegan), and a dog-knapping gang led by Stephen Tobolowsky and featuring one of the guys from N’Sync!

The film looks like it was shot on those streets you see at amusement parks and the end credits do thank a Florida amusement park. The stunts are pretty silly and will be enjoyable only to the very young. The relationship between Eddie and Billy and Eddie and Lisa is cookie cutter as well. Tobolowsky and Griffin add some energy and even Silverman is doing his best, but you can only do so much with a movie that has a dog chasing a lizard past a table full of food and upending it. As Griffin’s director character ironically says, “let’s get going so I can finish pounding the nail in the coffin of my career.”

What can you say about this movie that I didn’t already say about other recent kid’s DVD’s like Space Chimps or The Little Mermaid II? If you a very undemanding youngster, they may get a few giggles out of the slobbery dog jumping on the table and knocking over the man. Everyone else is going to be counting the seconds until it’s over. The disc is a flipper, with one side giving you a full frame version of the movie and the other side the widescreen version. You, of course, want to watch it in widescreen because full screen is of Satan. Both versions provide a commentary by director Mike Elliott and stars Jonathan Silverman and Moises Arias. Unfortunately, the commentary itself is pretty boring. Silverman does his best to be funny, but he’s fighting an uphill battle and there isn’t really enough to talk about it to make the thing interesting.

Usually it’s hard to screw up a gag reel, but this DVD manages to do it. It’s 10 of the longest minutes of my life and just seems to go on and on and on. Sometimes it isn't even clear what the blooper was. There are also two short deleted scenes.

The disc doesn’t include a “making-of” extra but most of the key points are covered in two eight minute extras. The first is “How Did They Do That?” focusing on the training the dogs. It’s a pretty interesting segment with the animal trainers discussing the three dogs that play Beethoven and how they were primarily used. You also get to see the dogs behind the scenes. The other extra is “Moises Steals the Show” about co-star Moises Arias. The camera follows the young actor around and his co-stars talk about him like they’ve never worked with a child actor with as much talent in their lives. Again, it gives you a sense of some of the behind the scenes activity.

That’s all there is to the DVD. It’s basic, to go along with a basic movie. While some parents will purchase this, most would be wise to save their money for something more worthwhile.