Tuesday, April 24, 2007

CYBORG BEETHOVEN

I got a Bluetooth headset. Yeah you know, Bluetooth. The wireless earpiece that allows you to talk on your cell phone at all times instead of just most of the time. I got it because I spend about 30 hours a week driving, and since I'm driving other people's children, I figured I need to keep my hands on the steering wheel more often. Also, hands-free phone talking allows me to continue going about my business when I have to spend an hour or so on the phone listening to the problems of my female friends. Also it makes me look like a really cool electronic kind of cyborg robot man.

I was hesitant at first to make this step into the world of cell phone geeks, but when I saw the man on the earpiece package, and saw how the earpiece seems to have brought him to some state of transcendent, revelatory euphoria, I was convinced.


"Oh God yes..."


But enough of this. It's time for some serious scholarly study.

~ BEETHOVEN ~

As I'm sitting here in a visit, in an official DSHS visit room equipped with a TV and a choice of three movies, one of which I am currently watching for the 3rd time in 3 days, I would like to offer you all an in-depth and insightful review of the classic Ivan Reitman film, Beethoven's 2nd, which is, of course, the sequel to the groundbreaking St. Bernard comedy from 1992, Beethoven. In the sequel, Reitman expands on the themes established in the original, such as "What is humanity's relationship to animals?" "What is a man's role in the modern family?" and "Is rape ok?"

With the opening shot, an extreme close-up of a dog's wet, black nose, Reitman establishes the tone for the rest of the film, which is...that it's...about a dog. We are soon reunited with the cast of the original film, the Newton Family, most notably the father, played by screen legend Charles Grodin in one of his most powerful and nuanced performances. We see that the titular St. Bernard, Beethoven, has settled into life with the Newtons, and he and Grodin--bitter enemies in the original film--have made peace with each other.


Charles Grodin. Giant steak. Amazing film.

Things seem to be going well in their idyllic suburban existence, but this sunny veneer hides a deep longing in our canine lead. We watch him wander through the park, observing various dog couples in love. In an unexpected statement against interracial relationships, Reitman shows us only dogs of the same breed together. Beethoven appears to buy into this status-quo prejudice, as he soon meets another St. Bernard and falls instantly in love.


Dog lingerie?

As the two dogs--who have just met--stand there slurping on each other like adult film veterans, a cheesy early-90's burgundy Mercedes pulls up, and we are introduced to the villain of the film: a snippy, tight-haired shark woman who for various unimportant reasons is out to steal Beethoven's new lover. We know she is the villain mainly because the camera slowly pans upward from her feet as she strides forward with thunderous brass reminiscent of the Star Wars "Empire" theme playing on the soundtrack. Also she has a New York accent, which indicates she is from The City, which in the Newtons' bright, Rockwellian suburbia, indicates "Otherness" and ultimately�evil. It's interesting to note that in the original Beethoven, one of the primary villains was also from New York, and also wealthy, a BMW-driving couple who planned to steal the Newtons' family business. There's a not-so-subtle theme here: Small Town VS Big City, family values VS personal ambition, Wood-Paneled family station wagon VS German luxury car. (Wood VS Evil..? *cough*)

So, events unfold, Beethoven and Beethoven's Bitch (this is actually her name as listed in the credits�no I'm kidding.) begin to romance each other, and soon, after an implied round of wild offscreen doggy sex, a litter of St. Bernard puppies is discovered. This is interesting because while the dog love affair is developing, it is intercut with simultaneous scenes of the eldest Newton daughter, Ryce, beginning an adolescent crush on the School Stud--

--who picks her up in his bitchin' Camaro and provides her with her first kiss. After receiving this kiss, Ryce (short for "Bryce"? Or alternate spelling of the popular 1990's girl's name, "Rice"? Which was actually short for "Stickyrice"?) staggers back into the house in a smiling daze, and collapses on her bed while a highly romantic R&B duet plays in the background.

The scene ends just before she starts masturbating furiously.

So, since there is clearly a parallel between Ryce's blossoming sexuality and Beethoven's torrid love affair, will Ryce soon be following the dogs' path and getting pregnant? Will the babies be human, or will she give violent birth to a litter of grotesque puppy-children in a nightmarish, Kafkaesque twist on the family film genre?

Moving on.

Sexual themes continue as we witness a frank discussion of human reproduction between Grodin's "father" character and his 5 year old daughter. While trying to distract him from noticing Beethoven's puppies, the daughter asks him the timeless question, "Where do babies come from?" Instead of simply telling her he'll explain it when she's older, he attempts to explain sex to his 5 year old daughter. To see Grodin squirm through this explanation, talking about "tadpoles" swimming up "rivers" to find mommy's "goldfish egg" is to watch an actor at the peak of his craft, especially when he is asked how the "tadpoles" get inside mommy and he replies dismissively, "They�well, they're in there. They're just in there."

As the convoluted plot progresses, we soon find the Newton Family vacationing in a forest cabin resort area. While taking Beethoven for a walk, Ryce stumbles upon another cabin, where School Stud--



--is hosting a massive Highschool Beer Drinking Party. He invites Ryce to join them, and when she hesitates, he says "Come onnnn." When she hesitates again, he tilts his head and just says "Come on" again. This convinces her. She ties Beethoven to the support pillar holding up the Beer Drinking Party Deck--foreshadowing alert!--and joins the party, where the sinful glamour of Beer is boldly underlined by several close-up shots of wild teenagers tilting their heads way back and dramatically flinging beer bottles to their lips.
It's impossible to miss the message here: these people are definitely drinking beer.


School Stud----tries to get Ryce to start drinking, but when she gets nervous and tries to leave, he instead invites her to come "take a look" at the bedroom. Sheltered from reality in her suburban Family Film world, Ryce hesitates only briefly. School Stud says "Come onnn." Ryce hesitates again, and School Stud says, "Come onnn," again. The second "Come onnn" is all Ryce needed, and she agrees to "take a look" at the bedroom. The film now once again proves itself to be a twisted fable drenched in aberrant sexuality. School Stud plants another kiss on Ryce's virgin lips, and says, "This is gonna be great!"

What is "this", ask all the grade-schoolers in the audience? What exactly is gonna be great? Rape, kids. Rape is going to be great.

Realizing that School Stud has sex in mind, Ryce retreats for the door, and finds it locked. School Stud flashes the key. Ryce demands he unlock the door. School stud pockets the key and tells her, "Relax. This (rape) is gonna be an experience you'll never forget!"

School Stud

While this is happening, the Beer Drinking Teenagers have been leaning over the deck pouring beer down on Beethoven, who is tied to the pole below. After drinking his fair share, Beethoven realizes he has reached his personal limit, and tries to escape the beer shower. With one mighty lunge, he rips the support pole out of the ground! The Beer Drinking Party Deck collapses! Upstairs, the floor suddenly drops out under School Rapist, and he topples backward into the lake below, emitting a blatant Stock Sound Effect scream--that weird, elongated howl you've heard in Mountain Dew commercials and various video games and cartoons, usually used when someone is being electrocuted or having their particles de-atomized.

Despite the epic climax of this scene, the film is far from over, but the remaining scenes involving county fairs and hotdog eating contests and the New York villains being peed on and toppled into pits of mud and then washed away down a raging river which cleans away all impurities from the world, leaving everything sunny and suburban and Family Friendly�..these scenes are not really necessary or noteworthy, so I will conclude this review here.

So what is the conclusion, then? What exactly are the messages Reitman is trying to convey in this film? As in all great art, the messages are not stated bluntly. They are woven delicately into the fabric of the narrative, to be discovered by the careful viewer, who must then extract them, ponder them, be changed by them. I will not try to tell you what these gems are, as each viewer will have his or her own interpretations, his or her own personal encounter with the vision presented here, but in my view, in my interpretation, the message is three-fold:

Interracial romance is an abomination. Honesty and family values will always triumph over wealthy people who live in New York. And teen rape is unacceptable.

With Beethoven's 2nd, Reitman has made a contribution to American Cinema that will not soon be forgotten, one that challenges our preconceptions about St. Bernards, and forces us to look at ourselves and our relationship to the world in a new light, especially when it comes to rape and our choices in new-car purchasing. History will remember this film as a landmark, not only in the St. Bernard Comedy genre, but in all film, everywhere, since the beginning of time.

-Isaac Marion, Burning Building Tribune

Cinephile's note: Ivan Reitman is not, in fact, the director of the film. Although the DVD box declares "Ivan Reitman presents�Beethoven's 2nd", and the credits open with "An Ivan Reitman film", the director is actually a man named Rod Daniel, whose name is listed in tiny print on an obscure corner of the movie box. Reitman is the Executive Producer, which, as I understand it, is mainly responsible for paying for the actors and cameras, and maybe bringing coffee to the set. One can only attempt to fathom why the man who is actually responsible for this masterpiece would allow himself to be hidden away in obscurity�

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