I grew up watching CLIFFORD. As a lifelong dog lover, it was one of my favorite TV shows and on my classic PBS Kids rotation along with ARTHUR and CYBERCHASE. Most of the premise is in the movie’s title, so I’ll spare the plot details. Full disclaimer: I understand that this movie is for kids, not nostalgic 24-year-olds who tweet about their positions on Clifford’s growth agents.

That being said, there are a few problems with the CLIFFORD movie, but I’ll start with the positives. A 25-minute segment in the middle of this movie is excellent entertainment, complete with a giant dog car chase, John Wick-style kitchen utensil battle, a diverse community coming together, and an emotional farewell. Unfortunately, this segment is bookended by the dullest and most uninspired story. If you want a plot summary of this movie, it’s a much worse version of PADDINGTON that somehow feels outdated.

The next problem – Clifford was supposed to parallel Emily Elizabeth. The disconnect is that Emily isn’t bullied for a unique personality, physical traits, or anything like that – instead, a (very stereotypical) bully harasses her for being poor. Her triumph over the bully is driven by the fact that she owns Clifford. Her emotional monologue at the end was telling the community that Clifford isn’t dangerous (which isn’t the issue throughout the movie). This is also tainted by the fact that Clifford grew because of magic overnight. For me, it’d be much more potent if Clifford had gradually gotten this way, or had always been enormous, and that this movie went the more typical misunderstood monster route (see KING KONG, GODZILLA, LILO & STITCH).

There are better movies than CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG for the themes I mentioned above. An exciting soundtrack, better CGI, and cohesive story could’ve redeemed the film. We also didn’t need an origin story outside of the first 20 seconds of the opening theme of the 2000s animated TV show. Nevertheless, CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG is playing in theaters now.

Tarush Mohanti

Tarush Mohant is a playlist curator and music explorer, the creator of illussongs (illustrations of songs), and has a fitness plan motivated by action movies (running, climbing, swimming, hiking).

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