Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Film Review | Beethoven's 2nd (1993)

Revisiting films you loved as a child can be a risky business, and invariably leads down one of two paths: you  are either transported back to your childhood, memories flooding back of watching beloved pieces of cinema on one of four channels on a lazy weekend afternoon, as you rediscover a gem of a bygone era that has aged joyously well; or, you are faced with the reality that the film you watched so many times that the sound and picture wore out on your VHS cassette when you were a child is something that the adult version of you can barely get all the way through. Whilst Beethoven's 2nd, a childhood favourite of mine along with the 1992 original, is not an absolute stinker, it certainly hasn't held up as well as the 10-year-old me would have hoped.

We rejoin the Newton family, parents George and Alice (Charles Grodin and Bonnie Hunt both returning from the first film) and their two point four children, plus of course the eponymous St. Bernard who is now feeling broody. Beethoven soon finds his sweetheart in Missy, a female St. Bernard (complete with pink bow at all times), and raises a litter of puppies. However, the canine couple are soon separated after Missy is taken from her owner by his spiteful ex-wife Regina (Debi Mazar).

Unfortunately, Beethoven's 2nd is never as enjoyable as the first film. Grodin and Hunt do their best to keep things afloat, but even their collective charm can't counteract the film's shortcomings. Two of the Newton offspring again are given subplots, this time both involving young love, and both failing to impress - Ryce's (Nicholle Tom) relationship with a boy at school begins promisingly, but concludes with one of the film's most ludicrous scenes; meanwhile Ted's (Christopher Castile) failed attempts to woo a classmate of his own because he's too short just come across as lazy and, in all honesty, stupid, with a conclusion lifted almost entirely from Ted's bullying story in the first film.

The problems unfortunately continue with the film's main plot, which feels limp and lacking in any substance, and punctuated by saccharine doggy romance far too often. Debi Mazar is suitably hateable as the poisonous Regina, but seeing Chris Penn reduced to playing her pratfalling, dumb boyfriend Floyd less than two years after his role in Reservoir Dogs is painful every moment he is on screen.

Beethoven's 2nd does have some redeeming features - Sarah Rose Karr is perpetually sweet as the Newtons' youngest Emily, and there are a handful of genuinely entertaining scenes, usually those where Grodin shares screen time with Beethoven (something which sadly happens much less frequently than in the original). But the humour is largely recycled from the first film, and what new ideas there are here are never successful enough. If like me you first saw this as a child, you'll probably still enjoy revisiting the colossal canine's misadventures, but sadly Beethoven's 2nd doesn't hold up well to close scrutiny.


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