Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it superman? No! It’s a big red dog! Based on the iconic scholastic books, Clifford the Big Red Dog brings the titular character to the big screen in all its live action glory and ultimately provides a crowd pleaser for all the family.
Written by Alex Gilston
A shipping dock in New York City provides the setting for the opening of Clifford the Big Red Dog. A stray Labrador is looking after its litter of puppies when pest control comes and takes them all away, apart from a red puppy. After tramping around it runs into Mr Bridwell (John Cleese), who is later responsible for pairing the puppy with Emily Elizabeth, a lonely girl who is being looked after by her irresponsible Uncle Casey (Jack Whitehall). After naming the puppy Clifford, Emily Elizabeth has a teary eyed confession and wishes that he would be big and strong for her, and the next morning she wakes up to find he is as big as her bedroom. Clifford the Big Red Dog is low stakes and simple enough for it to be an enjoyable 90 minute flick, it’s the definition of a Saturday morning sofa movie you watch with the family with a couple of bags of microwave popcorn and some pop chocolates.
The highlights of the movie come from most of its comedic moments, sequences in the vets, and Clifford playing fetch with a zorbing ball (Wilhelm scream included). Jack Whitehall brings his trademark wit to the role of Uncle Casey, he also gives his American accent an inaugural whirl and for the most part it works, but from a plot standpoint he could have had a British accent and it wouldn’t have made a difference. The CGI on Clifford was questionable at times, it feels like the equivalent of making a picture bigger and smaller in photoshop. The result is just what looks like a dog but puppy size, and it’s a little jarring before he becomes big where you can forgive the cgi if you have your suspension of disbelief.
As a silly romp with an A to B storyline, aimed at kids and families, Clifford the Big Red Dog serves its purpose. It’s certainly a film that could have found it’s way straight to any of the streaming services out there instead of it’s theatrical release but it does hold its own. Unfortunately it’s simplicity could be its downfall, as even though it is brilliant in the moment it’s easily forgettable. But if all you came for is a big red dog and his adventures there is genuinely nothing to complain about.