Film Review – Clifford the Big Red Dog (2021)

films, reviews

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

It’s safe to say that this weekend got away from me. Despite not being in the Lakes all weekend, I’ve managed to get behind where I wanted to be. So, yet again, I had to find a film to watch in time for this review. Which is just one of the reasons why I picked this film. It was a manageable length for me to fit in after work yesterday without having to stay up late writing it up. One of the reasons. There was a small part of me that was curious about it.

I never expected this film to be good but I did have a morbid fascination with it. Mostly because I used to be obsessed with the TV adaptation. Yes, I was far too old to be enjoying the cartoon but I did. It was cute. I still remember most of the theme tune because it’s an absolute banger. So, the idea that the popular children’s book was being adapted into a film starring Jack Whitehall didn’t exactly excite me.

Especially an American accent wielding Jack Whitehall. Speaking of, who made that choice? Not only is his accent far from convincing but his character’s sister is British? It’s so weird. It distracted me every time he was on screen. Which meant I might have missed some classic toilet humour. That’s the biggest difference between kid’s TV and kid’s films. TV has to rely on other methods to find humour because of regulations and stuff. Films just go crazy and rely very heavily on bodily functions. Now, I’m not saying there isn’t humour in bodily functions but that’s all this film really has.

It just lacks warmth and charm. Something that wouldn’t be a problem had it not been a well-known book and TV show. Compared to them, this film is just a bit cold. You can see where they were going with it. It’s a mixture of films like Beethoven with a touch of Bong-Joon Ho’s Okja. Not a bad idea in theory but it just doesn’t do anything to make itself stand out. It just rushes through all of the major talking points and, if it gets in trouble, just pulls out John Cleese to magically solve everything.

This isn’t a bad film but it’s not a particularly memorable one either. It doesn’t take enough time to set anything up. We don’t get a lot of time to connect with Emily before she and Clifford meet. Then there’s Tony Hale’s villain. A scientist who has no real screen presence despite the hefty talent of the actor playing him. How do you give Tony Hale the role of an evil scientist and manage to make him super boring and forgettable? It just feels as though this film is trying to get it over with as soon as possible.

Yes, there are some fun moments and one-liners. I quite enjoy the deli fight that needed to try really hard to stay child friendly. You also need to suspend a lot of disbelief regarding Clifford’s size and the ease he seems to have travelling around New York. It’s not something that the intended audience will care about. For children, this will no doubt hit the mark. For anyone older, there might be less to feel great about.

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