Clifford the Big Red Dog (2021 film)

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Clifford the Big Red Dog (2021 film)
CliffordMovie.jpg
Making a live-action adaptation of Clifford the Big Red Dog turned out to be a big red flag (no pun intended).
Genre: Live-action
Animation
Comedy
Fantasy
Family
Directed By: Walt Becker
Produced By: Jordan Kerner
Iole Lucchese
Written By/Screenplay: Justin Malen
Ellen Rapoport
Based On: Clifford the Big Red Dog
By Norman Bridwell
Starring: Jack Whitehall
Darby Camp
Tony Hale
Sienna Guillory
David Alan Grier
Russell Wong
Kenan Thompson
John Cleese
Cinematography: Peter Lyons Collister
Distributed By: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: November 10, 2021
Runtime: 96 minutes
Country: United States
Canada
Language: English
Budget: $64 million
Box Office: $107.3 million
Franchise: Clifford the Big Red Dog
Sequel: Untitled Clifford sequel


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 Scholastic book series and the 1963 book of the same name by author Norman Bridwell. It serves as the first film in the Live-Action Clifford the Big Red Dog film series and is the first film in the Clifford franchise since the animated film Clifford's Really Big Movie seventeen years ago. 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.

Bad Qualities That Are A Big Red Flag

  1. 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 (except for one exception) suck for two reasons: being very unfaithful to the source material and the horrible amount of toilet humor, dated references, and product placement, which this film also has (but to a lesser extent).
  2. 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 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 but with Emily Elizabeth and Clifford slap on it, its possible to replace Emily Elizabeth and Clifford with completely different characters that are not from the Clifford the Big Red Dog franchise, and the film would be the same.
    • In addition, there is no implication in both the books or the TV series that Emily Elizabeth had an uncle named Casey.
  3. Despite being done by the Moving Picture Company, the same visual effects company for the 2020 Sonic the Hedgehog 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 computer-animated face and the way he moves look off. To rub salt into the wound, the aforementioned Sonic the Hedgehog film had Sonic's design redone to look closer to how he does in the video games due to backlash by Sonic fans, 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.
  4. In a similar sinaryo to We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story, 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.
  5. It tries desperately to be hip with the kids, with at least one instance of the word "Lit", and several social media references.
  6. Most of the humor is very unfunny and atrocious, such as the scene where Clifford eats a dog and then spits it out is disgusting to watch (though Clifford didn't mean it), it's also pretty disturbing since Clifford is a dog, which is cannibalism joke in a Clifford movie.
  7. 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 the usage of "shit" (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. It's also very out-of-place for these kind of things to be said in a film based off of a PBS Kids show.
  8. The chase scenes are really forced, especially the car chase scene, which feels like something out of Fast and the Furious instead.
  9. A couple of filler here and there, such as the scene of Emily encountering other animals inside the magic pet store, including a weird looking hyena-giraffe hybrid creature, and the gang being cornered by a agressive sheep while at Lyfegrow saving Clifford.
  10. 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 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 laughable and atrocious, even for an evil company, sounding like the real-life pharmaceutical company, Lyfe Group.
  11. 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.
  12. Unnecessary product placement for Bodega, Foot Loops, Hardee's (owned by Carl's Jr which you can tell by the star), and so on.
  13. Like with the live-action The Smurfs film series duology 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.
  14. Bad direction from Walt Becker, who also directed the much unfavorable fourth Alvin and the Chipmunks film.
  15. The pacing isn't that great.

Good Qualities That Are Not A Big Red Flag

  1. 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.
  2. They paid tribute to Norman Bridwell, the author of the original books, as a character named Mr. Bridwell who gives Clifford to Emily.
  3. 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 as dumb but gets better over time.
  4. The hand-drawn animation during the opening scene and the credits are decent.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 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.
  7. The song, Room for You by Madison Beer, played in the end credits, is really good.
  8. There are a few wholesome moments between Emily and Clifford.
  9. It's great to see Clifford on the big screen after 17 years.
  10. The cinematography isn't too bad.

Reception

Clifford the Big Red Dog received mixed-to-negative reviews from critics and audiences with criticism aimed at the CGI, pacing, humor, and 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.

Despite only nearly earning back twice its budget at the box office (read: $21 off the $128 mark) and being negatively received, the film was still considered a box office hit.

Accolades

Clifford the Big Red Dog was nominated for the Kids Choice Award for its favorite movie; however, it lost to Marvel's Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Trivia

  • 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!

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