A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this Clifford, starring Martin Short as a 10-year-old boy, is not in any way related to Clifford the Big Red Dog. Slapstick action includes a runaway amusement park ride, falls, punches, a high speed chase, and toothy plastic dinosaurs. There are a few swear words, some leering at attractive women, and one predator makes sexual advances toward a co-worker. The adult characters (including parents) are either frustrated, mean, drunk, or clueless.
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What's the story?
Clifford is 10 years old (played by the adult Martin Short). He's incorrigible, devious, and, until one gets to know Clifford, absolutely charming (or at least he's supposed to be). Obsessed by a trip to California and an amusement part called Dinosaur World, the boy manipulates his parents into letting him visit his estranged Uncle Martin (Charles Grodin) in Los Angeles. Little does he know that Uncle Martin hates kids. But it just happens to be perfect timing because Martin is trying to convince his sweetheart, Sarah Davis (Mary Steenburgen) that he loves children. Clifford, on a quest to get to Dinosaur World, is unstoppable. He'll destroy anything (Uncle Martin's job) or anybody (Uncle Martin) who tries to deny him. Will anybody get wise to the naughty boy's selfish agenda? Will Clifford undo the unflappable Uncle Martin? Will his diabolical behavior send the lovely Sarah packing?
Is it any good?
The few laughs for grownups aren't nearly enough to make this movie bearable. And kids can find a lot more genuine laughs in movies with clever writing, warm-hearted pratfalls, and at least one likeable person. It's true that kids often find the exaggerated antics of naughty children funny on film; after all, those mischief-makers get away with what real kids only dream about. In this case, however, despite the frantically-sustained comic efforts of Martin Short and the slow-burn excellence of Charles Grodin, the weak story, mean-spirited characters, and a genuine lack of timing, pace, and wit defeat everyone involved.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about different types of movie violence. How do filmmakers let an audience know that some violence is not to be taken seriously? What's the difference between slapstick and realistic violence?
Seeing a child misbehave might be funny in a movie, but what consequences might that child encounter in real life? How would your parent(s) react if you did some of the things that Clifford did?
What, if anything, does Clifford learn about his behavior? Is there any evidence indicating that the character was ultimately sorry for the trouble he caused, or that he might change?
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