Directed by: #WaltBecker
Film review by: Brian Penn
Waking up next to a big red dog called Clifford might be a familiar scenario to some; particularly those who have spent the previous evening imbibing in the local hostelry. But that's exactly what happens to an animal loving girl in Clifford the Big Red Dog. Based on Norman Bridwell's graphic novel this will surely be the 'goto' movie for families this Christmas. It naturally pulls on elements of Home Alone, Uncle Buck and John Hughes in his prime. The combination of cute kids, furry animals and excitable parents work better than ever and prove that slapstick never goes out of fashion.
Our tale begins with Emily (Darby Camp), who is struggling at a new school while single Mum Maggie (Sienna Guillory) forges a career in the paralegal trade. Work takes her away from home and Maggie enlists feckless younger brother Casey (Jack Whitehall) to ‘babysit’.
He is dragged to an animal rescue centre run by the mysterious Mr Bridwell (John Cleese). She fixates on a curious red coated puppy and pleads to take him home. Casey forbids her more to avoid stick from his sister. Mr Bridwell cryptically adds ‘the more you love him the bigger he gets’. Somehow, the puppy makes it back to their apartment and he is duly named Clifford. A lonely Emily turns to him for comfort; however next morning she awakes to find Clifford has grown just a tad.
The special effects are truly brilliant and show how far CGI routinely pushes the boundaries on film. But there are so many holes to pick open not least Jack Whitehall’s ‘American’ accent. His attempt to be an American trying to impersonate an Englishman is accidentally hilarious. Similarly, the explanation given for Casey's American twang and his sister’s home counties accent takes some believing. But where on earth was the dialect coach on this film? Suspending one’s disbelief is essential for this film to mean anything. Get past that and there are some fantastic set pieces arriving at such a pace you might not notice the holes.
Clifford is essentially a one-gag movie that very quickly wears thin. It's certainly no less effective as a result and is shielded by a lean 96 minute running time. A sequel is already in preparation; although it’s difficult to see where it could possibly go from here. But never under estimate a film maker's ingenuity where a new franchise is concerned. When fun is this well packaged people will quickly forget they've seen it already. These niggles aside Clifford remains an entertaining feel good fix for the festive season.