Movie Review: Clifford the Big Red Dog (2021)

Synopsis: Emily Elizabeth Howard is bullied and friendless after moving to Manhattan with her mom and attending an elite private school on a scholarship. To make matters worse, her mom needs to go out of town on business for a few days and Emily Elizabeth must spend that time with her incompetent uncle, Casey. She finally finds some happiness when a tiny red puppy she meets at a mysterious animal rescue tent sneaks into her backpack. However, when the puppy, Clifford, grows gigantic overnight, it causes a number of problems ranging from being evicted to being the subject of a city-wide manhunt because the owner of a biotechnology company claims Clifford belongs to him.

Who's in it? The movie stars Darby Camp, Jack Whitehall, John Cleese, Izaac Wang, Tony Hale and David Alan Grier.

Review: My mother-in-law recommended this movie, so my wife checked it out when she was at the library a couple days ago. We ended up having family movie time yesterday evening and, to my surprise, this wound up being a movie we all enjoyed.

There were a couple things I found I really liked about this movie. The first was the fact it wasn't quite as predictable as a film like this would seem to be. Part of the reason for this was the multiple things that were happening at once. You had all the normal comedy you would expect to happen with a giant dog living in a Manhattan apartment, including a surprisingly funny scene involving Emily Elizabeth (Camp) and her uncle (Whitehall) trying to keep Clifford hidden from their suspicious landlord (Grier). 

At the same time, you had a well-written extra story involving the biotechnology owner (Hale) using every resource to ensure he wound up with Clifford, creating quite a bit of action and a little bit of suspense. Though, as my daughter pointed out, he didn't really need to own Clifford to get what he wanted and could have just paid Emily Elizabeth for a DNA swab.

Another thing I enjoyed about this movie was the great use of supporting characters. Emily Elizabeth's neighbors were some of the most memorable secondary characters I've seen in a while. I actually wound up with a bit of mixed feelings about them because, while I thought the movie did a good job limiting their appearances, so the focus was kept on the main characters, there was part of me that wanted to see more of them too. In fact, there is part of me that is hoping there will be a spinoff movie that focuses just on them.

While some parts about the ending were a little predictable, I did find I enjoyed the events leading up to it, especially the big chase scene. At minimum, the movie has a nice, feel good, ending that does manage to bring closure.

My only real complaint about the movie is I do wish it would have made more of an effort to explain Clifford's unusual red color (like it did with his size). That, and I wish the film could have stayed away from some of the usual crude humor (fart and pee jokes), because it really wasn't necessary in an otherwise well-written movie. In all honesty, the whole fart joke thing has been done to death in children's films to the point it almost seems like it is an unwritten requirement. Enough is enough already.

Final Opinion: As I mentioned, some of the crude comedy wasn't really necessary but the overall film was well-written and fun to watch. I would recommend it as a result.

My Grade: A-


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