It’s hard to believe that the Beethoven series is even still going, sixteen years after the original first hit theaters but Universal has unleashed the sixth installment of the franchise upon us in the form of Beethoven’s Big Break. There’s been a bit of a break for the series since the last outing (2003’s Beethoven’s 5th) which was a direct-to-video release as well, but apparently the streak had to be broken and the loveable dog returned has returned to TV screens to delight kids once again.
Fall in love with the big-hearted, slobbering 185-pound St. Bernard, Beethoven, in this howl-arious adventure that features an all-star cast, including Jonathan Silver (Weekend at Bernies), Rhea Perlman (Cheers), Moises Arias (Hannah Montana), Stephen Tobolowsky (Heroes), Oscar Nunez (The Office), Cesar Millan (The Dog Whisperer), Joey Fatone (‘N Sync) and Eddie Griffin (Undercover Brother). Although animal handler Eddie (Silverman) works with lots of creatures, he has a strict NO PETS ALLOWED policy and won’t let his son Billy keep adorable stray dog Beethoven and his family of puppies. But when dog-nappers teal the canine star of the movie Eddie’s working on, the studio big shots must quickly find a replacement and unexpectedly cast the lumbering canines as their next big star. Through his rambunctious antics and larger-than-life personality, Beethoven not only crashes into Hollywood but into Eddie’s heart as well.
And…that is really all you need to know about this film. It doesn’t attempt to play it any deeper than the synopsis portrays it and that’s fine, really. The series has never been one to be a great well emotion and deep thinking, although I did quite enjoy watching the first two installments as a kid. In a way I was kind of excited to do the same here as well, but it quickly became apparent to me that my love of the series is something that only applies to the earlier versions that I grew up with; these new editions are too riddled with modern day references and technology to get too caught up in the story.
But, there’s certainly plenty here to appeal to kids. The kid star here hails from the monster known as Hannah Montana, while music from Jonas Brothers, Rihanna, High City Miles and Everlife, so there’s plenty of “hip” music thrown into the mix as well. Since I’m not into any of the bands listed, however, the enjoyment I gleaned from the film was really just from the various stars that packed in this film, from Silverman to the always entertaining Tobolowsky and Nunez.
Unfortunately I don’t have anyone to test this film on that’s of the appropriate age, so I can’t do much more than remark on the non-kid elements of the film which…really, there aren’t many. The occasional joke is thrown in that adults may get more than kids, but aside from that this is a pretty kid charged affair through and through. It’s really more about the star power here than anything when it comes to the actors here, and while none are huge names, the wide array of known names will likely be the big draw for parents to pick this up over another children’s film.
Overall I’m sure I would’ve been entertained if I were a decade or so younger, but I’m sure the younger audience will enjoy this one. It’s not a bad film (no worse than the other installments, at least…although quite a few of those were pretty bad) and some of the acting is a bit off, but I’m not sure how much one could really expect from this type of film. Cute dogs and a few genuine laughs are about all I had to soak in with this one. Worth a Rental if you enjoyed the previous installments.
Universal has released this new film on a double sided DVD, with widescreen on one side and full screen on another. Also included is an embossed slipcover that mimics the art underneath it (except for the rear cover, as the art for the slip and actual jacket are different) and they’ve wrapped the whole thing up in a white amaray case (white apparently signifies kids, as that’s the only time I see that color used for DVDs). The video transfer is what you’d expect from a modern production, with solid detail and stable color levels and nothing overly astonishing about the picture overall. Audio comes in a DD5.1 mix that uses the surrounds appropriately and English SDH, Spanish and French subtitles are included.
In the extras area we have a selection of Deleted Scenes, a lengthy Outtake reel that runs over ten minutes, and a featurette entitled Moises Steals the Show that focuses on actor Arias joking around on the set. There’s also a short piece entitled How Did They Do That?! with animal trainers Mark Eschevarria and Dave Sousa as they tell us how they trained the animals used in the film; there’s also an obligatory discussion with Cesar Milan, as you can’t have a TV or movie that doesn’t have him in it now, apparently.
Finally there’s a Commentary with director Mark Elliott and stars Jonathan Silverman and Moises Arias, which is a bit of a surprising addition (especially since it’s nowhere mentioned on the back of the cover).
Overall not a terribly bad set of extras for a DTV type release, but whether you watch them is going to largely depend on how much you even enjoyed the film to begin with. A commentary is an odd addition, especially since I doubt the audience for this film would want to listen to it and I know I didn’t really get much out of it. As with the film, a Rental if you’re curious.
Beethoven’s Big Break arrives on DVD on December 26th.