Clifford the big red dog ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Review by Andrea Carnevali
A young girl’s love for a tiny puppy named Clifford makes the dog grow to an enormous size. Showing at Chiswick Cinema.
The stories of Clifford, a red oversized dog – and I really mean a giant 10 feet tall and 25 feet long dog – and his friend Emily have been around since 1963 in a series of books for children by American author and cartoonist Norman Ray Bridwell. There are about 80 of them, mainly short whimsical and heart-warming bedtime stories about friendship and love.
The books were first adapted into an animated TV series for young children back in 2000, which retained its charming and innocent look and feel, though infamously one episode was temporarily banned in the US for featuring a lesbian couple.
Its first attempt to hit the big screen in 2004 in the form of a CGI-animated feature, with the voices of John Ritter and John Goodman, resulted in a modest success among the audiences (let’s be honest, mainly young kids and their hostages…. erm.. I mean, parents or carers), but it received very mixed reviews.
And now after being in the pipeline for almost a decade, here’s the chance to redeem the character in a real-life version… Well, sort of “real life” because actually the dog is completely CGI, with very mixed results. Even the photo they use to publicise the film looks a bit fake… Not that the children would know anyway, so who cares?
In its translation to film, the story has lost a lot of that charming innocence from the originals, to make way for slapstick, action, some superfluous subplots about “being yourself” and a gratuitous baddie.
It goes without saying that nothing here is at all surprising: everything goes through the motions, exactly as you would expect, in a rather undemanding way.
Jack Whitehall was probably the highlight for me: charming and at times actually quite funny. He speaks with an American accent, only to break into his own voice pretending to be British at some point in the film just to annoy his sister. On the other hand John Cleese, who probably did one or two days’ work on this, is instantly forgettable.
Of course, despite being slashed to pieces by the critics, it’s perfectly fine for what it is and it really has no pretence to be anything else but a slightly old fashion, undemanding (and uninspired) story with plenty of cheesy moments, toilet humour… and a cute puppy.
The children are likely to enjoy this, so I guess on that front it does the job. However we know only too well from two Paddington movies (incidentally a third one will begin filming next year), that these sort of stories could be done so much better.
Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick.
Clifford the big red dog is on in cinemas now.
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See also: December Books by Anna Klerfalk
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