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Clifford the Big Red Dog

Paramount // PG // February 1, 2022
List Price: $31.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ryan Keefer | posted March 9, 2022 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

I remember reading the "Clifford the Big Red Dog" series of films when I was a wee lad many moons ago, having never thought about whether they would be adapted to another medium than Norman Bridwell's books. Sure enough they were made into television material and the call to turn the dog into a movie character was inevitable. I guess doing a CG dog next to live action people wasn't something I saw coming?

Adapted by Jay Scherick, David Ronn and Blaise Hemingway and directed by Walt Becker (Wild Hogs), Emily (Darby Camp, Big Little Lies) is staying with her Uncle Casey (Jack Whitehall, Jungle Cruise) when she encounters an older man named Mr. Bridwell (John Cleese, Monty Python's Flying Circus), who gives Emily a small red dog and tells her the dog will grow based on the love it receives. Low and behold one day, the family wakes up to a 10-foot tall red puppy, who they have to keep away from a landlord's no-pets policy but more than that, keep away from Mr. Tieran (Tony Hale Veep), who wants to experiment on Clifford to determine the reasons for the growth spurt..

There are a couple of components within Clifford that disappoint, and I'm going to do this without the ability to hone quantum physics and go back to when I was 5 or 6 and read these books, so forgive in advance. The first is the movie spends a disproportionate amount of time around Clifford's size that the film tends to be stalling for something. OK, it's a big red dog, but I'm not sure why most or all of the first act is spent on everyone's primary reaction being, ‘ hey man, what can I say, this is a big dog!' I get it!

The second being when it comes to something wholly unique to the current world, the tendency to inhabit the plot of E.T. as an antagonist driving the rest of the film is a putoff. Those responsible for the force of Clifford reverted to disappointing storytelling, which they didn't need to do and would seem to have lost some of the things that made the Bridwell books enjoyable to kids, which they still seem to do some decades later.

The overall cast performances are earnest, despite nobody having any real notable enjoyment past what is expected of them in their roles, but when you have to act towards a large dog puppet (yes, really!), you can't be faulted for that much. Clifford starts off on the wrong paw and never really gets its footing back with substance. I'm disappointed, but not all that surprised.

The Blu-ray:
The Video:

I was taken aback by the amount of detail in the Blu-ray, with Clifford's fur looking sharp as do the numerous New York exteriors, which pack a nice variety of color to them in their various exterior scenes. Black levels in Hale's suits are natural and the image is as clean and clear as any recent release I've seen, it's a marvelous disc.

The Sound:

The Dolby Atmos track is equally up to the presentation, with Clifford's various clumsy sonic episodes ringing out through the home theater with wood bursting, glass breaking and the like. Ambient sounds such as those in the park are natural and immersive, while dialogue is consistent and well-balanced in the home theater. The film comes across perfectly on Blu-ray, regardless of the creative merits in it.

The Extras:

Along with a digital copy, a couple of quick and easy things; "Part of the Pack" (6:34) looks at the story from the cast and crew perspective, press kit style, while "Acting is for the Dogs" (3:20) is a much-appreciated look at the 10 foot tall puppet that subbed in for Clifford, and the puppeteers shared their challenges and approach to the film. "The Magic of Bridwell" (7:11) examines things from the author's side, while "Tips and Tricks for Taking Care of a 10 Foot Dog" (2:28) is what you'd think it is. Three deleted scenes (2:50) complete the package.

Final Thoughts:

I don't fancy myself much of a Clifford aficionado these days, but I do have another child approaching that target demo, so it remains to be seen! But it is enough to capture your child's attention, but I would avoid the last 10 minutes or so as the ending leaves the film smelling…like a wet dog, I'm sorry. Technically, the disc is a winner, so at least the family will enjoy watching it for a while until someone in the house gets bored from it.

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