Clifford the Big Red Dog
Clifford the Big Red Dog (2021) movie review
Based on the book series from Norman Bridwell, Clifford the Big Red Dog follows Emily, a young girl who discovers an adorable, little red puppy who ends up growing into an adorable, massive red puppy. The family adventure film opens this week and, while it does carry a mixed critical reception, could very well take second place to last week’s holdover Eternals.
I would have enjoyed Clifford more if it wasn’t just three weeks after another family-friendly adventure film about a child who has trouble with bullies in school and is given a version of a normal thing that is objectively defective, but somehow exactly what they need to overcome their flaws and grow as a bolder individual. And also there’s an old Russian lady. While I obviously cannot fault the studio for following a working formula in a kid’s film, I can give credit to the filmmakers for crafting one of the most entertaining family films of 2004…
In all seriousness though, when we get these formulaic family films like Clifford, the question goes from ‘How great is this movie?’ to ‘Will this entertain my kids?’ And in this case, yes it will. Whenever I see a kids movie in theaters I try to pay attention to how noisy the audience is. Usually you can tell if kids are engaged or not, and Clifford kept the theater full of children amused for most of its runtime! And credit where credit is due, the film is both fun and entertaining!
Now while it would give me some satisfaction to compare the film to the source material, by the time the series of the same name (2000-2003) came around I had already outgrown it. So instead I will touch on the missed opportunity to offer kids a look into positive scientific advancements. By that I mean, maybe don’t have an evil CEO trying to kidnap Clifford? And maybe don’t give kids the idea that all corporations are bad? Tony Hale enters as the film’s antagonist running a company attempting to solve world hunger; so of course he is the ‘bad guy’ because he wears all black and is evil. But if Burnish from Abominable (2019) taught me anything, you can explain this type of character to children in a positive light without compromising the integrity of your story. Which Buster Bluth absolutely does in this case.
As far as the big red dog himself goes, I went into the film ready to complain about the look of giant Clifford, and I walked out ready to bark on and on about the look of small-headed puppy Clifford. After taking a few deep breaths and looking back at the books- this is a solid interpretation. Could it look better? Absolutely. Puppy Clifford is especially uncanny. Was this an admirable and conscious choice? I would say so yes.
In the end, Clifford the Big Red Dog is exactly what it promises to be: entertaining family fun that follows a working formula so closely that you will absolutely forget about it in a few months. Everyone in the film (except Tony Hale and the one-dimensional direction he is given) does a fine job, and the laughs and adventurous nature of the story should charm the whole family. The biggest downside here is that Clifford could have been molded into a good film with some bold choices. Alas, those choices were not made, and we have a passable adaptation that admittedly was more entertaining than Ron’s Gone Wrong (2021). 5/10.
So, Clifford the Big Red Dog? Did you see it? What did you think? Were you more disappointed than I was? What would you have changed? Be sure to leave a like and a comment below and let us know! And as always, thanks for reading!
-review by Ryan Prince