BOB AT THE CINEMA: CGI ‘Clifford’ doesn’t have the storybook red dog | Journal of the Herald of Monticello
As a kid, I loved colorful storybooks about Clifford the Big Red Dog.
As a teenager, I had nothing against cartoons. As an adult working in Times Square, I hated having to spend several hours a day standing in front of a billboard depicting a dead-eyed CGI Clifford holding a manhole cover in his mouth like a Frisbee.
Maybe if this new Clifford was like the expressive character from my childhood, I might be willing to take it easy, but the “dog” in this movie isn’t the character kids know and love.
The film sees Harlem seventh grader Emily Elizabeth (Darby Camp) left in the care of her irresponsible uncle Casey (Jack Whitehall). The only bonding activity the teen is interested in is visiting an animal adoption tent run by the mysterious Mr. Bridwell (John Cleese).
She’s caring for a lost bright red pup that Casey refuses to let her have for several good reasons, not the least of which is that their apartment’s super-employee (David Alan Grier) has a strict “No Pets” policy. animals” in the building.
But the dog follows her home, Casey can’t say no to those puppy eyes (more from his niece than the real puppy) and he says he can stay just for the night. Emily Elizabeth foolishly names the dog, which the adults know will be that much harder to separate the two later on, and perhaps even more foolishly wishes Clifford to grow up.
This being a children’s movie with a magical John Cleese, she wakes up in the morning to find that Clifford is still a dog and still red, but now really, really big.
The huge Clifford causes immediate problems for Emily Elizabeth and Casey. He destroys all the furniture in the apartment, causes a scene in Central Park when he has to use the bathroom, and requires a visit to an unnecessary vet (Kenan Thompson). But he also saves the life of a friendly local lawyer (you better believe I made the joke about it being more far-fetched than a huge red dog), so Emily Elizabeth knows that he has a good heart.
Meanwhile, an engineering magnate (Tony Hale) wants Clifford all to himself so he can study what makes him so important in an evil plan to fight world hunger.
Wait! Why is his plan so diabolical?
Mark my words, this character has a future as an entry in these “Villains Who Were Right All Along” articles. The rest of the film sees Emily Elizabeth and Casey running to protect Clifford, which may mean sending him to an animal sanctuary in Asia.
Oh no, please don’t let Clifford be sent to a huge sanctuary where he can frolic in peace. The teenager from the crowded urban neighborhood who doesn’t know how to take care of himself wants him as a pet.
The terrible commercial for “Clifford the Big Red Dog” actually worked to the film’s advantage, as my opinion had no choice but to rise. But it deserves much of the ill will I had. The film is filled with uninspired stock characters, sitcom-level dialogue, nonsensical motivation, and many, many painful jokes.
And yet, I will throw out a few compliments. The CGI dog isn’t as off-putting in motion as it looks in front of it. Camp is surprisingly decent when it comes to making me care about Emily Elizabeth and Clifford’s relationship. And John Cleese so effortlessly charming that I’m willing to give this movie a C grade by a hair’s breadth.
No, not a huge hair from Clifford, rather anything you can find on Tony Hale’s head.