What should have been a nostalgic take on a childhood classic, the recent movie Clifford the Big Red Dog, directed by Walt Becker, offered nothing but a fast-paced, poorly written, undeveloped plot. The new adaptation on the adventures of Emily Howard (Darby Camp) and her 10-foot tall dog, Clifford, ultimately preys on people’s sentimentality and their wallets.
The movie follows Clifford’s origin story as a puppy who just lost his family trying to find his way around the big city streets of New York. Mirroring Clifford’s struggles is Emily, a new student who is facing unrealistic and overused hardships of middle school. After Emily’s mother (Sienna Guillory)–a character that offers nothing to the film whatsoever–goes away on a business trip, Emily is left with her “quirky” Uncle Casey, played by Jack Whitehall.
When Emily and Clifford meet through Mr. Birdwell (John Cleese), an eccentric old man who sells strange animals, an immediate bond is forged; however, with a no pet policy in their apartment complex, Emily is unable to adopt Clifford. Devastated, Emily continues on with her day until eventually she and Clifford are brought together again through the magic of Mr. Birdwell, which is never quite explained throughout the movie. The next day, Clifford, who was once a small puppy, is discovered to be a 10-foot tall giant.
Together, with Emily’s uncle, best friend Owen (Izzac Wang), and the whole block, they fight back against Zack Tieran (Tony Hale), the main antagonist in the film, a basic evil scientist who is looking to exploit Clifford.
Clifford the Big Red Dog is filled with nothing but clichéd tropes and stale jokes that only humor five-year olds. Targeted toward younger viewers, Clifford falls short for the older generation, which may explain why the movie only has a 48% on Rotten Tomatoes.
The movie lacks many of the familiar elements and characters from the original animated cartoon, such as Clifford’s best friends: T-Bone and Mac. Even Clifford’s original comforting look was transformed into a gigantic, frightening puppeteered mess of CGI.
The movie’s shortcomings are somewhat balanced out by the film’s celebrity guest appearances. Comedians Kenan Thompson, Rusell Peters, and John Cleese make the film slightly more tolerable, yet it’s still hard to overlook the movie’s many faults.
Clifford the Big Red Dog is nothing more than a cash grab and a complete waste of one hour and thirty-six minutes. If you’re looking for the comfort of Clifford, it’s best to find it elsewhere: the original PBS Kids version.