Key Demographics: Our Review of ‘Clifford The Big Red Dog’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - November 10, 2021
Key Demographics: Our Review of ‘Clifford The Big Red Dog’

Heart comes in all sizes…

In theatres now, Clifford The Big Red Dog may not necessarily move the needle for all cinema goers, but for the 6 and under set it’s just got just enough heart to make you not regret taking the kids to the theatres.

When middle-schooler Emily Elizabeth (Darby Camp) meets a magical animal rescuer (John Cleese) who gifts her a little, red puppy, she never anticipated waking up to find a giant ten-foot hound in her small New York City apartment. While her single mom (Sienna Guillory) is away for business, Emily and her fun but impulsive Uncle Casey (Jack Whitehall) set out on an adventure that will keep you on the edge-of-your-seat as our heroes take a bite out of the Big Apple. Based on the beloved Scholastic book character, Clifford will teach the world how to love big!

If anyone is coming here looking for Paddington levels of genius here in Clifford The Big Red Dog they should probably just turn around and go home right now, but with that being said there’s some genuine heart and a real message throughout, even though it aims more at its target demos then trying to delight audiences of all ages.

Director Walt Becker has a pretty solid track record of crafting ‘safe’ movies and he proves his worth here as the movie has flow to it but never gets too adventurous in order to keep the kids focused on the action at hand.  It’s all well staged and never feels overtly silly even while Clifford is running through the streets of New York.  The script and the writing plays to its audience without being overtly silly or dumbed down, rather it all just feels ‘efficiently simplified’.  There’s nothing in this film that is trying to reinvent the wheel…and quite frankly there shouldn’t be, but it works thanks to strength in concept and a very strong leading leady.

Star Darby Camp as Emily knows how to straddle the line between kid friendly and genuinely compelling as our young heroine Emily who wants to spend her days with Clifford who ultimately gives her the confidence to help adapt to her new situations at school.

Sadly she’s the only person really playing her part properly though as Jack Whitehall leans into it a little too hard as the disarming and charming “fun” Uncle Casey.  He feels forced just being a hair too wacky with it all but ultimately plays into the narrative well as the help sidekick to Darby’s Emily.  While young Izaac Wang almost steals the show as Emily’s friend from school, everyone else in the cast is either overacting (Tony Hale/Horatio Sanz) or either just not in it enough or playing it all way too straight (John Cleese/Sienna Guillrory).

At the end of the day, if you’re in the 5-7 age group range, you’ll probably have a lot of fun with Clifford The Big Red Dog, but any adults in attendance may want to reminisce over their own relationship with this classic children’s character rather then get invested in an effectively fun, but ultimately silly movie.

This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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