As a kid, I did not have much exposure to Clifford the Big Red Dog. So, when I heard about a new adventure comedy film of the same name being released, I was naturally curious. Directed by Walt Beck, and starring Jack Whitehall and Darby Camp, Clifford the Big Red Dog is set to be a family favourite this holiday season.
Being different to everyone around you is hard, even more so when your classmates remind you of it every chance they get. As a girl attending an elite private school on a scholarship, Emily Elizabeth (Darby Camp) faces this challenge daily as her peers constantly remind her that she does not belong. Her mother, Maggie (Sienna Guillory) is about to jet off on a business trip and has arranged for her brother, Casey (Jack Whitehall) to step in and look after Emily whilst she is away. With Casey homeless and living out of his van, Maggie is unsure that he is up to the task.
Their adventure begins when they visit the local carnival and stumble upon a lost animal’s tent run by the magical Mr. Bridwell (John Cleese) and discover a cute red puppy. Mr. Birdwell says that the puppy will grow as big as it is loved. Absolutely smitten, Emily begs Uncle Casey to adopt the stray puppy however, Casey says ‘no’. The very next day Emily returns home from another long day of being bullied at school to find that the dog has stowed away in her backpack. Emily vows to love him as much as she can and names him Clifford. The following morning, she awakens to find Clifford is now a giant red dog. What happens next is hilarious and wholesome as heck.
With exception of being a fan of Jack Whitehall’s work, I entered this film with no expectations and left with a heart as full and as big as Clifford himself. This story is one that will resonate with both the young and the young at heart, and touches on many social issues that children face on a daily basis, even more so now than when I was a kid, due to social media. Emily is just trying to be herself and whilst her mother keeps reminding her that it is ‘okay’, her classmates do the exact opposite. When Clifford enters her life, she not only finds that companionship and unconditional love she has been searching for, but she also fights to save him, showing audiences that no matter who you are, where you are from, or how big you get, everyone is special and should allowed to be themselves.
Jack Whitehall is the perfect casting choice as the whimsical uncle trying to be cool but screaming on the inside. I was thoroughly impressed by the chemistry between him and Darby Camp, it really felt like they were family. Darby Camp at age 14, pulls off a wonderful performance of a little girl that has more maturity and morals than most adults. Izaac Wang plays the character of Emily’s best friend, Owen Yu, and becomes the tech savvy member of the dynamic trio trying to save Clifford. It was a treat seeing the three of them work so well together and I can tell they all had a whole lot of fun creating this film.
This film would not be complete without a villain. Played by Tony Hale, Zac Tieran is the owner of a genetics research company, Lifegro. When Zac sees the footage of Clifford running through the streets, he sees him as a way to save the company and their research. Hale portrayed the villain perfectly and by the end of the film, I most definitely hated his character with a passion. There is also a lovely comedic cameo from Kenan Thompson as the veterinarian that Clifford visits. Without naming all of them, the wonderful ensemble cast of the local community really gave this film the giant heart it deserves.
I was pleasantly surprised by this film and I’m extremely thankful to have had the chance to see it. I wouldn’t normally go out of my way to see a kids film like this, however, after seeing Clifford, I believe I may go see more of the genre in future. Clifford the Big Red Dog is adorably funny, wholesome and full of heart, with its core message to be comfortable in your own skin and not let anyone tell you otherwise.
I implore you to take your family, friends, and the little ones to go see Clifford and the Big Red Dog. It does not matter whether you have been a fan of the books or cartoons as a child, or whether this film will be your first time meeting Clifford. Either way, you are going to love this giant red doggo.
Clifford the Big Red Dog will be in good cinemas everywhere this holiday season from December 30th.