Everybody fondly remembers the '90s kids movie Beethoven, a Thanksgiving classic (for some reason) about a cantankerous St. Bernard who wins over the hearts of the Newton family – even the ornery patriarch. What people don't seem to remember, however, is the surprisingly dark aspects of this dog-centric children's movie.
Most noteworthy is the villain. It's easy to forget that Beethoven had a villain because: a) Why does a children's movie about a dog need a villain? And b) the bad guy's scheme was so heinous that those memories are probably deeply repressed in the minds of '90s children.
Read on to discover exactly what is so disturbing about the film's villain and why the Beethoven movie is super messed up in general.
It's clear that the villain, Dr. Herman Varnick, is not a vet. It's less clear what he actually is. It appears as though he Dr. Varnick is testing out weapons on dogs, supposedly for scientific purposes, but his methods lack any real intent aside from cruelty. But again, to reiterate: the antagonist in this PG-rated dog movie tests weapons on dogs. But how does he do it?
The villain in this children's canine movie EXECUTES DOGS BY SHOOTING THEM IN THE HEAD! Of course, audiences never actually see it happen, but still. In the film's climactic scene, he is in his lab with Beethoven, holding a revolver aimed right between the St. Bernard's eyes – and this is all part of his real occupation, supposedly.
Why? How can that be remotely necessary? What type of data does that provide?
Perhaps most messed up of all was Dean Jones's commitment to method acting as he refused to break character when the cameras stopped rolling. Since Dean Jones had a history of playing nice guys, like he did in The Shaggy D.A., he wanted to make sure he could really capture the essence of the dog murderer he was channeling.
That's a pretty screwed up brain space for one to voluntarily occupy. It's a kids movie! Just phone in your evil vet performance. It could not have been worth risking your soul, Dean.
Before Beethoven, Dean Jones (the guy who played the dog-killing vet) starred in a movie called The Shaggy D.A. In the movie, he had a magic ring that allowed him to transform into a dog, which apparently helped him perform his job as a... District Attorney.
The point is, he went from playing an actual dog to a dog murderer. Don't let anyone tell you Dean Jones doesn't have range.