“CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG”
Classified PG. At AMC Boston Common and South Bay, Regal Fenway, Suburban Theaters and on Paramount +.
Rating: B +
In 1963, the character of Clifford (the big red dog) came into the world when a children’s book publisher suggested designer and illustrator Norman Bridwell come up with a story to accompany one of his drawings.
Drawing inspiration from his wife and daughter, the adventures of Clifford and his faithful companion Emily Elizabeth have spanned a long series of children’s books and a spin-off PBS animated series, and now the long-running live-action version. gestation finally gallops through town. The result is a sweet, serious film that doesn’t traffic snark or irony, capturing the childish spirit that allows the suspension of disbelief to buy the sight of a giant crimson Labrador running through Central Park after a Zorb. inflatable (remember those?).
The film is directed by Walt Becker, who made a name for himself with Ryan Reynolds’ vehicle “Van Wilder” and the aging star comedies “Wild Hogs” and “Old Dogs”. âCliffordâ is a refreshing departure from this particular brand of smiley comedy. Written by Jay Sherick, David Ronn and Blaise Hemingway, âClifford the Big Red Dogâ has a decidedly innocent appeal.
The meditative score by fellow composer John Debney is a constant reminder that this is a children’s film, although it is not impossible that parents will find pleasure in this film as well, given that where other children’s films launch into noisy and wacky territory, “Clifford” zags in a softer and warmer register. It’s such a naive and well-intentioned movie that beating it up would feel like you kicked a puppy.
It helps that CGI Clifford’s stage partner Emily Elizabeth is played by supernaturally precocious actress Darby Camp, best known for her role as wise Chloe in “Big Little Lies,” in which she taught her mother to. Reese Witherspoon television the nuances. airs of Leon Bridges. Camp is able to sell his emotional connection to the huge scarlet whore amid all the chaos, which keeps the core of the film in the right place.
Emily Elizabeth is the new one from a posh private school in New York City, hassled by her classmates and is in desperate need of a friend. When she and her uncle Casey (Jack Whitehall) stumble upon an animal rescue tent run by a magical Mr. Bridwell (John Cleese), she is immediately taken with a little vermilion puppy.
Despite Casey’s protests, the dog somehow ends up in his backpack, and when Clifford explodes to elephantine proportions, he sets off a series of crazy adventures across town. Emily and Casey attempt to track down Bridwell with Clifford in their wake, while an intriguing genetic entrepreneur (Tony Hale) sets off on a hunt for the colossal canine carmine and its unique DNA.
âCliffordâ doesn’t force too many jokes, but he has enough really funny actors on board (including a who’s who of âSaturday Night Liveâ players) to keep things weirdly funny around the edges. Filling in the small roles with David Alan Grier, Rosie Perez, Tovah Felshuh, Siobahn Fallon Hogan, Alex Moffat, Horatio Sanz, et al. Helps make this film funnier than expected.
– Tribune press service