Clifford the Big Red Dog
Clifford the Big Red Dog follows one central cliché: “People who are unique are the ones who change the world.” While this is not a new concept, the film does offer something fun and refreshing amidst the drear of overplayed Christmas classics and superhero fatigue. It’s fun to see a picture that’s not welded to a grander cinematic universe and isn’t overly reliant on references and Easter eggs. Sure, the nostalgia factor plays a role because of the story’s origins as a children’s book, but it’s not over-indulgent, and comes into its own quite early on. Clifford the Big Red Dog sticks close to its roots with themes of friendship and community, using illustrations and storybook narration.
One of the most endearing elements of this adaptation is the dynamic between the adults and the children, specifically, the juxtaposition of Jack Whitehall’s Casey against Darby Camp’s Emily Elizabeth: Whitehall’s Zachary Levi-esque performance (reminiscent of films like Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel and SHAZAM!) plays well with Camp’s headstrong yet timid portrayal. Also displaying notable chemistry are Owen (Emily Elizabeth’s friend, played by Izaak Wang) and his dad (Russell Wong), and John Cleese’s Mr Bridwell opposite the young protagonist.
The humour is very much in the usual vein for a children’s movie, and not exactly groundbreaking, but it does what it can to keep the narrative from falling into stagnation, with some excellent timing in the acting and editing that helps elevate the comedy. Likewise, the camerawork and production are nothing special, though the CGI for Clifford is commendable: he very much looks like a part of the world. While this film is average in most respects, clever execution really helps sell it as an adventure.
At the end of the day, Clifford the Big Red Dog is rather generic – from the cinematic techniques used to the soundtrack, right down to the plot – but maybe that’s not a bad thing at all. It’s a great reminder that some of these film-typicals are as effective as ever. The feature does a decent job of telling the heartwarming tale of a dog and his owner, with some magic and funny shenanigans along the way, and that’s all that really matters in the grand scheme of this modernised children’s classic.
Clifford the Big Red Dog is released nationwide on 10th December 2021.
Watch the trailer for Clifford the Big Red Dog here: