Mom on Film: Beethoven's Big Break

This December 26, just in time for New Year's, Universal Studios releases the sixth offering from its family-friendly Beethoven series, after Beethoven, Beethoven's 2nd, Beethoven's 3rd, ...4th and ...5th.

This time around, in Beethoven's Big Break, Beethoven the St. Bernard attaches himself to Eddie (Jonathan Silverman), a single dad and animal trainer, and Billy (Moises Arias), Eddie's sad, lonely pre-teen son. Beethoven's big break comes when he inadvertently impresses a Hollywood director looking to cast a dog with charisma as the lead in a family film. Billy and Eddie's big break is, of course, Beethoven himself, who brings father and son together as a "pack" and introduces Lisa (Jennifer Finnigan), a smart, pretty scriptwriter, into the mix. The requisite nefarious characters appear, add tension, are foiled, and manage to never be too scary.

Beethoven's Big Break is the perfect date movie. I used it for a date with my six-year-old son and he couldn't have been happier! We finagled some time in the house alone, brought in burgers, fries, and a root beer float, popped in the DVD and spent the afternoon doing exactly what he wanted to do -- ahh, bliss! I was not as

optimistic about the film as he was (I've somehow avoided all Beethoven exposure up to now), but it was his day and he loves Beethoven, so I agreed. And you know what? It was just fine.

Afterward I asked my Boy Wonder what he thought about the movie. This is what he had to say: "I liked it because Beethoven did funny tricks. It was better than the other [Beethoven] movies because he was really crazy in this one and I liked the different family and the Dad was nice and I like Billy because he loved Beethoven and because he was lonely." His favorite part was "when Beethoven tangled up the bad guy with the leash and then ran off." As for the scary factor, he wasn't too worried, "because I knew Beethoven wouldn't die because he's the main character."

Unfortunately, the disc's "Bonus Features" are neither terribly interesting nor entertaining. The DVD is supposed to contain a widescreen version on one side and full frame on the other -- ours was full frame on both sides. According to the publicity packet, the "Barkin' Hot Bonus Features" include "Moises Steals the Show: Filled with direct-to-camera hijinks, this piece features Moises Arias acting, joking, and playing," as well as "How Did They Do That?!: Animal Trainers ... tell us how they trained three dogs for the role of Beethoven while Dog Whisperer Cesar Milan explains the keys to working with animals." Neither of these "Barkin' Hot Features" appeared on our copy and I have to wonder if they would have been any more entertaining than the deleted scenes or gag reel, which not even my son found interesting. The feature commentary was a lesson in tediousness, so we turned it off pretty quickly.

The movie itself was an upbeat, innocuous romp sure to entertain the audience for whom it was intended. Beethoven's Big Break may be just the ticket for family movie night. You could watch it together while you wait for the arrival of 2009. Alternatively, if you're looking to distract the kids for a while on New Year's Eve, it has Electronic Babysitter potential as well.