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Review: ‘Clifford the Big Red Dog’ is a huge adventure

“Clifford the Big Red Dog” is the feature film adaptation of the beloved children’s book series that was first published in 1963 by author and cartoonist Norman Bridwell. The motion picture features an animated version of the towering titular canine in a live-action family comedy.

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"Clifford the Big Red Dog" features the misadventures of the oversized canine in a new theatrical release based on the beloved children’s book series by Norman Bridwell. Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch
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BAXTER — If a dog is a man’s best friend, then no canine comes any friendlier than “Clifford the Big Red Dog.”

The oversized and unmistakably crimson canine made its debut recently in theaters in a feature film adaption of the children’s book series that was first published in 1963 by Norman Bridwell.

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Middle-school student Emily Elizabeth, who is played by Darby Camp, is a social outcast at the preppy private school she attends in New York City

Unhappy in her small apartment, Elizabeth attempts to fit in while her mother tries to balance work and parenting as a single mother trying to make ends meet.

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“I wish you were big and strong … and the world couldn’t hurt us.”

— Emily Elizabeth


Called away on urgent business, Elizabeth’s mother reluctantly and with great apprehension turns to her ne'er-do-well brother to look after the child while away.

Jack Whitehall plays the irresponsible uncle who temporarily is put in charge of the precocious girl and moves in with her, and out of his moving van that he’s been living in illegally.

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One day while escorting Elizabeth they spot an animal rescue run by the enigmatic and mysterious Mr. Bridwell, who gifts Clifford the pup to Elizabeth. He is named after the creator of the beloved children’s book series and played by English actor and comedian John Cleese.

John Cleese may be better known to American audiences for his involvement in the British comedy sketch TV series “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” and the 1988 motion picture comedy “A Fish Called Wanda” with former Python colleague Michael Palin.

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"How big is he going to get?" Elizabeth asks Bridwell while holding the undeniably adorable puppy.

Bridwell replies, "That depends ... on how much you love him."

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Elizabeth and her uncle Casey take home Clifford to their no-dogs-allowed New York apartment, against Casey’s better judgment, until Casey can decide what to do with the puppy.

Elizabeth endures more ridicule from her snooty classmates, including bullying and name-calling from a girl who mercilessly teases the new dog owner in the PG-rated film.

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“I wish you were big and strong … and the world couldn’t hurt us,” Elizabeth tearfully confesses to Clifford one night as they both lay in bed.

Elizabeth wakes up the next morning and to her surprise sees Clifford has become a 10-foot puppy who she goes on an adventure with in the Big Apple in this heart-warming tale (or is it tail?)


“How big is he going to get?”

— Emily Elizabeth


Much of the gentle humor in the 90-minute movie comes from the physical comedy of having a ginormous dog as a little girl’s pet while they both try to navigate the world around them.

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The family-friendly film should appeal to audiences of all ages, but especially dog owners or wannabe dog owners who probably could see a little of their pets in Clifford.

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The CGI-animated feature film manages to capture the essence of the puppy-turned-hero and dog lovers will probably find something to chuckle about in the movie geared towards children.

“Clifford the Big Red Dog” is playing at the Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter and the Sunset Cinema in Jenkins. “Based on the beloved Scholastic book character, Clifford will teach the world how to love big!” according to the makers of the motion picture.

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The film is dedicated to the memory of Richard Robinson, the former chief executive officer of Scholastic, who died in June 2021.

“Clifford the Big Red Dog” currently holds a 52% approval rating among critics and a 94% approval rating among audiences at Rotten Tomatoes, a review-aggregation website for film and television.

The RottenTomatoes.com audience consensus reads: “Whether they're fans of the books or new to the title character, ‘Clifford the Big Red Dog’ is fun viewing for little ones.”

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at frank.lee@brainerddispatch.com . Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bdfilmforum .

Frank Lee.jpg
Frank Lee

Frank Lee.jpg
Frank Lee

Frank Lee.jpg
Frank Lee

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I cover arts and entertainment, and write feature stories, for the Brainerd Dispatch newspaper. As a professional journalist with years of experience, I have won awards for my fact-based reporting. And my articles have also appeared in other publications, including USA Today. 📰
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