Beethoven is a 1992 American family comedy film, directed by Brian Levant and starring Charles Grodin. The film is the first in the Beethoven film series.
It was written by John Hughes (under the pseudonym Edmond Dantès) and Amy Holden Jones. The story centers on a St. Bernard dog named after the composer Ludwig van Beethoven owned by the Newton family and co-stars Nicholle Tom, Christopher Castile, Sarah Rose Karr, Stanley Tucci, Oliver Platt, and Dean Jones
When the film opens, a St. Bernard puppy (later named Beethoven) and some other dogs are stolen from a pet shop by two thieves. Beethoven meets a Jack Russell Terrier who manages to escape from the thieves and sneaks into the home of the Newton family. The father, George Newton (Charles Grodin) doesn't want the responsibility of owning a dog, but his wife Alice (Bonnie Hunt) and children convince him. While trying to name their new found dog, the youngest daughter, Emily (Sarah Rose Karr), plays a portion of Ludwig van Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and the puppy barks along, thus he is named Beethoven.
Initially, George only focuses on Beethoven's negative aspects: scratching the door, shedding on the furniture, dining off the kitchen counter, and otherwise chewing the house apart. However, the rest of family grows more attached to Beethoven, who helps the children overcome their problems in various ways, such as frightening off the bullies that are bothering Ted (Christopher Castile), helping the eldest girl, Ryce (Nicholle Tom), talk to her crush, and saving Emily's life when she falls in their babysitter's swimming pool.
The family takes Beethoven to a local veterinarian, Herman Varnick (Dean Jones), for a routine medical examination and immunizations. The family is unaware that Varnick is involved in unethical and deadly animal experimentation and hired the two thieves, Harvey (played by Oliver Platt) and Vernon (played by Stanley Tucci), that were seen in the opening sequence. Varnick wants to use Beethoven for an ammunition test requiring large-skulled dogs such as St. Bernards; he urges the family to leave him overnight at the clinic, but they refuse. Varnick speaks to George alone and tells him of a supposed mental instability among St. Bernard dogs making them potentially dangerous to humans and advises George to watch Beethoven closely for any sign of viciousness. George is concerned and resolves to send Beethoven away if he observes any "weirdness", much to a skeptical Alice's chagrin.
In the days that follow, George and Alice try to impress Brad (David Duchovny) and Brie (Patricia Heaton), executives from a rival company, into investing in George's business, Newton Auto Air Fresheners. Unbeknownst to the couple, the executives, seeing the potential profitability of George's business, seek to eventually absorb the company into their own by writing some "fine print" into a contract. During a meeting at the Newtons, George is about to finalize his partnership with Brad and Brie when Beethoven wraps his leash around the picnic table and chairs and drags the couple down the sidewalk, much to Alice's amusement. Infuriated that Beethoven has ruined his deal, George declares that he wants the dog gone, much to the sadness of his family.
Varnick later visits the Newton home under the guise of doing a follow-up exam on Beethoven. He stages an "attack" by Beethoven on him, claiming that Beethoven bit his arm. Varnick says Beethoven must be euthanized or he will press charges. Emily, who saw Varnick hit Beethoven, protests that the attack was fake, but George, fearing for his family's safety, takes Beethoven to Varnick's office. Along the way, George reveals that his father had taken an old family dog to be euthanized, much to his sadness, and shows empathy for Beethoven for the first time in the movie, telling him "You were my dog, too." before hugging him leaving him with Varnick.
Later, after recognizing Emily's level of sadness and having a conversation with Alice, George has a change of heart. The entire family goes to Varnick's office to investigate the incident further and discuss it with Varnick. Varnick claims that Beethoven has already been euthanized, much to the anger and surprise of the family, especially considering that Varnick's office staff had claimed Beethoven would have to be held in the office overnight, as the man who handles euthanization was off-duty that day. In the ensuing struggle it is revealed that Varnick has no bite marks and that the attack was faked. They demand that Beethoven be returned but Varnick insists he has already been euthanized. This angers George and he punches Varnick in the face, knocking him into a cage in the boarding kennel area in the back of the clinic where Beethoven had been held earlier. Afterwards, after the police show no interest in intervening, the family decides to follow Varnick to his secret facility, where he is also planning to test certain chemicals on smaller dogs. George starts to tail Varnick's Porsche and call 911, and Ted tells him to turn off his headlights so they won't be seen. While Alice calls the police, Beethoven breaks free and chases and attacks Harvey and Vernon, George crashes through the facility skylight, and Ted drives the family's Oldsmobile station wagon through the doors of the facility, all to save Beethoven and the other dogs. Varnick is bitten in the groin by a Jack Russell Terrier, sedated by chemical syringes sent flying into his stomach by the Newton station wagon crashing through the building, and later arrested and indicted. The two goons run from the pack of dogs which had been at the facility, including Beethoven. They escape by jumping over a scrapyard fence, only to face the wrath of the four guard dogs inside the scrapyard. Later, they are also arrested and indicted; they are seen on television, covered with stitches and bandages, due to being attacked by the guard dogs.
The Newtons are featured on the television report of the indictment of Varnick and his associates. Mark, the boy who Ryce has flirted throughout the movie, sees Ryce on television, calls her and asks her to go out with him. The film ends with George and Alice saying goodnight to all the dogs they brought home from Varnick's facility.