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‘Beethoven’s 2nd’

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
December 17, 1993


Rod Daniel
Charles Grodin;
Bonnie Hunt;
Nicole Tom;
Christopher Castille;
Sarah Rose Carr;
Debi Mazar;
Christopher Penn;
Kevin Dunn
teen drinking, potty talk and one scene of comic violence

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Born Dec. 16, 1770, Beethoven would have been 1,561 dog years and seven dog days old had he lived to see the release of "Beethoven's 2nd." Coincidence? I think not. It seems clear that producer Ivan Reitman sees this slobberific symphony as a kind of hommage with dogs.

Notice, if you will, the similarities between Beethoven the composer and Beethoven the Saint Bernard. Specifically the near-psychotic urge to repeat the same note over and over. I ask you: Is this not a sequel? Is not a howl a kind of musical brooding? And what, in retrospect, are we to make of Beethoven's "Fur Elise"?

Without question, "Beethoven's 2nd" is among the furriest movies ever made, with not one, but six Bernards. Beethoven finds love -- or should we say expresses his appassionata -- for Missy, a smooth-coated and fertile female who is almost immediately delivered of four fuzzy puppies. Alas, the dog lovers are soon separated, and poor brooding Beethoven in his despair sings his own woofish sonata in the moonlight.

Charles Grodin, reprising his role as the poppa who made such a fuss over the burly behemoth's arrival in the original, has come to accept Beethoven as a part of the nuclear family that includes Mom (Bonnie Hunt) and the kids (Nicholle Tom, Christopher Castile and Sarah Rose Karr). Then, the children test his paternal patience yet again when they find and raise the puppies.

Missy, alas, has been dognapped by Debi Mazar as a two-legged Cruelle de Vil. A sinister beauty, she plans to give her husband, who adores Missy, 101 damn good reasons to increase her alimony payments. Missy, held hostage in a rustic cabin, refuses her kibbles, the better to pine for her pups and her own true love.

Director Rod Daniel and writer Len Blum, respectively of "K-9" and "Meatballs," do not stray far from the original composition, which found the garrulous Grodin playing put-upon straight man to the starring dog. This is but amplified sixfold here, as Grodin grimaces good-naturedly at uprooted plantings, doggy weewee in his briefcase and, of course, strings of drool.

A plot line involving Grodin's putting the family home up as collateral for a business loan simply vanishes as the family goes on a much needed mountain vacation. As fate would have it, the heavy and her even heavier beau (Chris Penn) are holed up here. Beethoven's great, moist nose begins to quiver and his large lungs can be seen to heave beneath his thick coat of fur. One thinks of a hairy bagpipe ... and so of music.

It is a little-known fact, some suggest apocryphal, that Beethoven was working on a 10th symphony at the time of his passing. Its title: "Das Bernard."

Like the man from which it takes its cues, "Beethoven's 2nd" is at once passionate and tender. Measure for measure, a furry good movie.

"Beethoven's 2nd" is rated PG for teen drinking, potty talk and one scene of comic violence.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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