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"Clifford's Really Big Movie" – Movie Review

  • Annabelle Robertson Entertainment Critic
  • 2004 19 Feb
"Clifford's Really Big Movie" – Movie Review

Release Date:  February 20, 2004 (limited release)

Rating:  G

Genre:  Children’s

Director:  Robert Ramirez

Actors:  John Ritter, Wayne Brady, Grey Delisle, Jenna Elfman, John Goodman, Jess Harnell, Kel Mitchell, Judge Reinhold, Kath Soucie, Cree Summer and Wilmer Valderrama

Review:  Clifford (voice of John Ritter), Cleo (Cree Summer) and T-Bone (Kel Mitchell), three dogs from Birdwell Island, are a happy trio who enjoy spending time together. One night, they troop off to the carnival, where they enjoy the antics of “Larry’s Amazing Animals.” The act isn’t amazing, but the animals try hard, so Clifford, Cleo and T-Bone stop “backstage” to compliment the performers.

Shackelford, the high-flying ferret (Wayne Brady) and lead animal in the act, tells his visitors about an upcoming contest that could save the act from cancellation. When Clifford hears that the prize is a lifetime supply of his favorite dog food, he’s tempted, but quickly realizes that his owners would miss him too much. However, the next day, he overhears a neighbor commenting on how much food Clifford eats – because he is so big. Clifford’s owners agree, but before they have a chance to tell the neighbor that Clifford is well worth it, the big red dog decides that he just has to try his luck in the contest.

OBJECTIONABLE CONTENT: "Clifford's Really Big Movie"

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Never one to let their friend down, Cleo and T-Bone agree to join the act along with Clifford. But to do so, they have to lie, because Larry only takes in strays. So they rip off their dog tags and tell Shackelford that they don’t have owners, that the tags are from “three owners ago” and “just a way to fool the dogcatchers.” Shackelford believes the lie and introduces the trio to Larry, who immediately begins rehearsals.

The new act – unlike the old one – is a real success, and people flock to see “Larry’s Amazing Animals,” who are soon invited to participate in the national dog food contest. They just might win, too – but will they really get what they were promised? Or is it a trick? And will the animals be able to get over their own jealousy and pettiness to even perform at the contest?

“Clifford’s Really Big Movie” is the next film installment from the popular Scholastic series written by Norman Bridwell and broadcast on PBS. Its positive socio-economic themes about accepting yourself, being a good friend and helping others has made the series a hit success with 2- to 5-year-olds in 60 countries. It has been nominated for 14 Emmy Awards in three seasons, including four for 2002-2003 and won numerous honors, including the Humanitas Prize, awarded for positive messages in film and television.

This film offers a positive message about the importance of family. Clifford and his two friends are sorely missed by their families, who go to all sorts of extremes looking for them. This conveys that even those with special needs, like Clifford and his large quantities of dog food, are important to the people who love them.

“Clifford’s Really Big Movie” also explores the concept of individuality and acceptance. Once he leaves Birdwell Island, Clifford is surprised to find that people are afraid of him, because he is so big. He and his friends thus realize that people sometimes make unfair judgments about others without getting to know them first.

Another positive message of the film is that we can be tricked by our desire for fame and fortune. The contest promoters promised celebrity and riches to the winners, but they did not fulfill that promise. Instead, they kidnap Clifford and turn him over to the selfish daughter of George Wolfsbottom (John Goodman).

There are a couple of lies in the film that parents will want to discuss with their children. The dogs lie to join Larry’s animals (this is later discovered but not rebuked), and Larry lies to get into Wolfsbottom’s compound. Unfortunately, neither of these lies causes negative consequences. The dogs’ lie allows them to become circus performers and famous contest winners. Larry’s lie allows him to rescue Clifford. Together, it might lead children to believe that “the end justifies the means,” a myth that will need debunking.

The director of the movie also enjoys a little political joke. George Wolfsbottom (George W. – get it?) is a rich, selfish Texan who rules a small empire and fails to follow through on his promises. Coincidence? Maybe. Then again, it is an election year, and Hollywood isn’t exactly filled with Bush-lovers.

Overall, however, the movie offers a positive, fun experience for young children.