Clifford the Big Red Dog (2021)
Clifford the Big Red Dog is a 2021 American live-action/computer animated fantasy adventure comedy film directed by Walt Becker with the story written by Justin Malen and Ellen Rapoport, the film is based on the Schoolastic book series and the 1963 book of the same name by author Norman Bridwell, it is the first film in the Clifford franchise since the animated film Clifford's Really Big Movie, the film follows a 12-year-old named Emily, who befriends a little red puppy that grows up one day, and mishaps happen when the giant dog creates havoc in the city of New York City.
When Emily Elizabeth meets a magical animal rescuer who gives her a little red puppy, she never anticipated waking up to find a giant, 10-foot hound in her small New York City apartment. With her single mother away on business, Emily and her fun but impulsive uncle set out on an adventure that takes a bite out of the Big Apple.
- While the idea of a Clifford film sounds good on paper (and has been done before), the basic concept of making it a live-action one (while technically not the worst concept) is very questionable, starting in almost the mid to late 1990s, there have been almost a lot of live action films that were based on kids animated media, and most of them suck for two reasons: being very unfaithful to the source material and the horrible amount of toilet humor, which this film also has.
- Similar to the 2019 Clifford cartoon reboot, there is some poor grasp of the source material. For example:
- Emily Elizabeth looks nothing like the book or cartoon show counterparts, as she doesn't have her famous blonde hair and classic pink outfit that made her design so iconic.
- Apart from being a Big Red Dog, hence the title, Clifford is just portrayed as a regular dog and doesn't speak at all.
- Not to mention, this film's version of Clifford depicts him as a Labrador Retriever rather than you know, a Vizsla!
- It doesn't even feel like a faithful adaptation to any of the books, it just feels like some generic live-action/CGI hybrid film that's been done millions of times.
- In addition, there is no implication in both the books and the TV series that Emily Elizabeth had an uncle named Casey, only living with her parents.
- Despite being done by the Moving Picture Company, the same visual effects company for the Sonic movie (which Paramount also distributed), the visual effects for Clifford look rather uncanny, as although the film correctly depicts Clifford as a red, giant dog, his design looks off due to just looking like a regular dog that happens to be photoshopped big and red rather than looking close to his iconic design we all know, and his obviously computer-animated face and the way he moves look off. To rub salt to the wound, the aforementioned Sonic the Hedgehog film had Sonic's design being redone to look closer to how he does in the video games due to backlash by Sonic fans, while this film just kept Clifford's design the same, which shows how Paramount doesn't care about the Clifford fanbase at all, even if it was justified due to the Clifford fanbase being less popular than the Sonic one.
- The movie has a massive tonal problem where one minute Clifford is wreaking some wacky havoc and the next, Emily Elizabeth talks about Clifford's health deteriorating while her voice grows weirdly demonic.
- It tries desperately to be hip with the kids, with at least one instance of the word "Lit", and several social media references.
- Most of the humor is very atrocious, such as the scene where Clifford eats a dog and then spits it out is disgusting to watch (though Clifford didn't actually mean it), it's also pretty disturbing since Clifford is a dog, which is cannibalism, in a kids film, no less.
- Despite being a kids/family movie, several profane words like "ass", "bloody" and "bollocks" (which Uncle Casey says out loud) are said, as well as usage of "S**t" (also from Uncle Casey) cut out. Not only do the swear words feel quite forced (like the movie was deliberately avoiding the G or U rating), but the latter is quite an overused trope in "family" movies.
- Zac Tieran is a generic villain who is very one-dimensional, since all he does is to get Clifford as a lab rat for the company Lyfegrow to make more money, which somewhat feels out of place in Clifford related media, also, he's basically James Suggs from Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip, as they're both villains set on capturing the titular animals played by the wasted talent of Tony Hale, and are also generic villains.
- Additionally, both films are also directed by Walt Becker, and speaking of Lyfegrow, the name for the company is very atrocious, even for a villainous company, sounding like the real-life pharmaceuticals company, Lyfe Group.
- The film is too cliché and predictable, as it tries to hide the fact that Emily and Casey would find a way to get Clifford from Lyfegro and that it uses the "power of love" cliche that is being used to death in so many films.
- It has a largely unnecessary product placement for Bodega, which appears in a scene where Emily tries to get dog food for Clifford and at a dinner scene with the characters eating Hardee's (owned by Carl's Jr which you can tell by the star.)
- Like with The Smurfs and the 2021 Tom & Jerry film adaptation, this also takes place in New York, showing the total lack of originality that these studios have when making hybrid adaptations of franchises originating from other forms of media.
- Bad direction from Walt Becker, who also directed the much unfavorable fourth Alvin and the Chipmunks film.
- The pacing isn't that great.
- The movie is seen as a slight improvement over the heavily-panned reboot, which is more unfaithful to the 2000 series compared to this.
- The acting is okay, especially from Jack Whitehall despite the wasted talent, as he does a good job at being a clueless uncle and also seemed to be having fun with his performance, and David Alan Grier did a good job voicing Clifford.
- They paid tribute to Norman Bridwell, the author of the original books, as a character named Mr. Bridwell who gives Clifford to Emily.
- Aside from a few characters, most of the characters are likable like the sympathetic Emily Elizabeth (despite not looking like the book counterpart) and Clifford (despite his design being uncanny), and even Uncle Casey, who starts off as dumb but gets better over time.
- The hand-drawn animation during the opening scene, and the credits, is decent.
- The humor, despite being unfunny, surprisingly has very little toilet humor (aside from a scene of Clifford urinating), so at least it's watchable towards families and fans of the original books, despite having a giant uncanny red dog.
- Depending on your view, Clifford doesn't look that bad, compared to the live-action designs of Garfield, Scooby-Doo, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Yogi Bear, and especially Paramount's original Sonic the Hedgehog render that thankfully got scrapped. Some may find Clifford's design cute (as most dogs are).
- Not to mention, Clifford here at least stays true to his original incarnation in terms of his character design. Plus, it was apparently designed by the same guy who redesigned the Smurfs in the live-action movies and it's evident that Allen Battino never gets it wrong.
- The song, Room for You by Madison Beer, played in the end credits, is really good.
- There are a few wholesome moments between Emily and Clifford.
- It's great to see Clifford on the big screen after 17 years.
- The cinematography isn't too bad.
Clifford the Big Red Dog received mixed-to-negative reviews from critics and audiences with criticism aimed at the CGI, humor and the unfaithfulness to its source material, but praised its visuals, the soundtrack and some of the acting, such as Darby Camp's performance as Emily Howard. On Rotten Tomatoes the film holds an approval rating of 57% based on 92 reviews with an average rating of 5.40/10. The website's critics' consensus reads: "It may get younger viewers to sit and stay, but Clifford the Big Red Dog is nowhere near as charming as its classic source material.". On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 55 out of 100, based on 21 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars, whilst IMDb has a rating of 6/10.
Clifford the Big Red Dog was nominated for Kids Choice Award for favorite movie, however it lost to Marvel's Spider-Man: No Way Home.
- This is the second film to be based on Clifford, after the 2004 film Clifford's Really Big Movie!
- A novelization of the film was released in December of 2021, having nothing to do with the original book as expected.
- During the end credits, there's a cameo of the original Clifford from the books.
- Similar to the live-action Smurfs designs, the design for Clifford himself was done by Allen Battino, and at least looks faithful to its original design, like the former. Plus, it's evident that Allen Battino never gets it wrong!