In Review

Film review: Clifford the Big Red Dog

Dog-centric family fun with John Cleese, Jack Whitehall and Darby Camp

Animal-loving children should “lap up” this big-hearted live-action film based on Norman Bridwell’s hit books, said Andy Lea in the Daily Express. The story revolves around 12-year-old Emily Elizabeth Howard (Darby Camp), a misfit nicknamed “Food Stamp” by her snooty classmates at a fancy New York prep school. When she’s left in charge of her “unemployed man-child” uncle (Jack Whitehall), he takes her to an animal shelter where she falls for a small, red, “cheaply animated” CGI puppy. “How big is he gonna get?” she asks. “That depends on how much you love him,” replies the shelter manager (John Cleese). It turns out that the more Emily adores her dog, the bigger he grows – and soon Clifford is the size of an elephant, attracting the interest of an “evil biotech boss” who wants to capture the dog to harvest its “growth-spurting DNA”. 

This reboot has clearly been inspired by the “peerless” Paddington films, said Leslie Felperin in The Guardian. New York’s streets are less mean than usual, and have been spruced into an “ethnically diverse yet entirely harmonious metropolitan utopia”. It lacks Paddington’s “wit and polish”, but it’s “watchable and even occasionally amusing”. The script is “decently funny”, said Tara Brady in The Irish Times, but too much plot has been jammed in. “Just let the little girl rescue her dog. That’s enough story. Thanks.” Still, Cleese adds twinkle; Whitehall entertains; and this loud, silly, over-saturated film was a hit with the “smaller viewers” I saw it with.

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