Once a franchise is launched, it seems, it is by definition unstoppable, even when, as is the case for this series of films involving a large St. Bernard, the franchise has moved into the direct-to-video realm.
Beethoven, with his slobbery, chaotic ways, is making life impossible for the Newton family. He is thus packed off to obedience school. Meanwhile, we are introduced to Michelangelo, the impeccably behaved St. Bernard owned by the impossibly rich Sedgwicks. The Sed…icks are not evil, but they are shallow, and neglect their lonely daughter. Due to a blundering dognapping plot cooked up by the Sedgwicks’ duplicitous butler, the dogs wind up being switched. The Newtons, at first delighted (if puzzled) by the sudden transformation of their dog, soon come to miss the old ways. Beethoven, for his part, gets the Newtons out of their elitist shell.
The audio is a clear, distortion-free 5.1 surround mix. While there are some sound effects coming in from the rear as well as the front, for the most part, the surround effect is the domain of the music. Philip Giffin’s score is omnipresent, and barely a minute goes by without some kind of musical commentary. That said, the music never overwhelms the dialogue. There is not, however, much by way of left-right separation of the sound.
The image is presented in the original 1.85:1 widescreen. Now, while widescreen is closer to being the rule rather than the exception with DVD releases, it is nice to see this feature on a disc so obviously aimed at very young viewers. It’s good to get them used to the format early on. As for the picture, the transfer is trouble free. The colours are true, there is no grain, and no image enhancement flaws.
The menu is still and silent, and the extras very limited. There’s a trailer for Balto: Wolf Quest, a two-page ad for other family films on DVD, a few pages of production notes, and biographical sketches of actors Judge Reinhold, Julia Sweeney, Michaela Gallo, Joe Pichler, Matt McCoy and Veanne Cox, and director David Mickey Evans. Beethoven and Michelangelo, incidentally, are played by Stanley.
If you’re already an avid follower of the series, then this is probably an easy pitch. Bear in mind that the audience for this film is clearly the very young. Babe this is not, but as family movies go, it is utterly harmless, if deeply unoriginal. Think of it as a 94-minute episode of The Wonderful World of Disney.
Special Features List
- Theatrical Trailers
- TV Spots
- Cast Bios