Family-friendly adventure “Clifford the Big Red Dog” is much better than I expected. It’s certainly made for and caters to kids, but this cute, inoffensive charmer is something the entire brood can enjoy. With its silly jokes, valuable message, funny gags, and huge heart, it’s easy to enjoy this movie.
The film is based on author Norman Bridwell’s children’s literary classic of the same name. The book, first published in 1963, is a series about a giant red dog named Clifford. The story stays true to many of the pup’s adventures, but is given a slightly modern update.
Middle school student Emily Elizabeth (Darby Camp) is having a tough time. Bullied by the mean girls in her class, she often feels lonely and sad. One afternoon, Emily meets a magical animal rescuer (John Cleese) who shows her a special little red puppy. No pets are allowed in the Harlem apartment she shares with her single mom (Sienna Guillory), but with her slightly irresponsible Uncle Casey (Jack Whitehall) babysitting for a week, Emily begs to keep the cute dog. But when the sun rises the next day, the two get a truly giant surprise: the puppy has grown to be the size of an elephant.
A bunch of fun adventures take place throughout New York City, and the characters just accept that there is a ginormous dog running around. It’s definitely the time for suspension of disbelief, but the cast and story is so good-natured that I didn’t think twice about the practicality of it all.
It’s commendable that the film has an effortless diversity that never feels forced, with a multicultural cast (Paul Rodriguez, Izaac Wang, David Alan Grier, Horatio Sanz) of enjoyable characters. This fits in perfectly with the message that not only is it okay to be different and stand out from the crowd, but it’s something to be celebrated. In the end, the heroine learns to speak out and use her voice to stand up for others and in doing so, also stands up for herself. It’s a valuable lesson for kids and adults alike.
With its positive message and happy ending, “Clifford the Big Red Dog” is simply delightful.