Want more recommendations for your family?
Sign up for our weekly newsletter for entertainment inspiration
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Intended to entertain rather than educate, though there are lessons about friendship and teamwork.
Encourages compassion, empathy, and teamwork (Emily, her uncle, and Owen have to work together to keep Clifford safe). Promotes importance of caring about others and protecting animals from cruelty.
Positive Role Models
Emily is kind, generous, thoughtful. She's attentive to Clifford. Owen is a loyal friend. Uncle Casey, although initially immature and irresponsible, learns to be more reliable. Emily's neighborhood friends all team up to help her and Clifford. It's somewhat confusing that the head of a company that aims to feed the world is written as nefarious and manipulative.
Main character Emily Elizabeth and her family are White (as is the villain). Her best friend, Owen, is Asian but could be construed as supporting the "nerdy Asian sidekick" stereotype, which he jokes about; he's also super rich. Emily has a single mother who works hard to care for her daughter. Neighborhood residents/supporting characters are diverse.
Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.
Violence & Scariness
A brief brawl includes people using a Taser, punching one another, slapping. Characters are chased/pursued. Clifford runs into a Zorb ball that has a person inside. Because of his size, Clifford's puppy behavior can be perceived as aggressive at first, and he does wreck/destroy stuff in his enthusiasm. Oversized Clifford's pee splatters in a dramatic way. Some tense words.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Emily is cruelly taunted as "Food Stamps" by her wealthy classmate, who also says she's the "biggest nobody at school." Potty humor includes "nut hole" and "butthole," as well as "screwing stuff up," "freak," and a jokey comment about Owen being an "Asian Oliver Twist." "Oh my God," "Oh God," and "Oh Lord" used as exclamations.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Products & Purchases
Apple MacBook, Honey Comb cereal. Clifford has a lot of off-screen tie-in merchandise.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Clifford the Big Red Dog is, like the animated TV show, based on the classic children's book series about an oversized red pup and his sweet human friend, Emily Elizabeth. In this adaptation, Emily (Darby Camp) is a lonely New York City middle schooler who's been left in the care of her immature Uncle Casey (Jack Whitehall) while her mom is out of town. After attending an animal rescue event, Emily ends up with a cute little red puppy, who quickly grows into a massive dog. Emily and her 10-foot-tall canine proceed to have outsized adventures that include collateral damage and a bit of action (a brief brawl, a chase, the use of a Taser, a group of angry and protective neighbors), threats from a villain who wants Clifford for himself, and occasional bathroom humor (Clifford's huge size makes his toots, pee, and poop supersized, too). Insult language includes "freak," "nobody," and calling someone "Food Stamps." The movie deals with issues related to class and isolation; while most main characters are White, Emily's neighbors are diverse, as you'd expect in a city tale, and her one good friend is Asian. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This crowd-pleasing, if uneven, adaptation of Bridwell's beloved classic books is saved by the sweetness of its story about a girl who loves her very big red dog. There was a moment, when the movie's teaser trailer first came out, when it looked like this version of Clifford would be stuck in the creepy awkwardness of the uncanny valley. Thankfully, the final film is better -- and cuter -- than expected. Emily's bond with the red puppy is easy for any pet lover to understand. Camp does a fine job of gazing lovingly at a CGI creation, and her apartment's neighborhood is believably diverse and ready to band together to save one of their own. While it seems unlikely that Emily would get so unreservedly and openly harassed by the rich mean girls at her school, her friendship with quirky classmate Owen (Izaac Wong) is cute and built upon their shared sense of "otherness" (hers based in class, his based on being Asian and nerdy).
Where the movie struggles is the script, which is credited to Jay Scherick, David Ronn, and Blaise Hemingway. For example, why is the movie's villain the CEO of a company whose mission seems positive (feeding the world)? That's more than a bit confusing for younger viewers, who won't understand the morally ambiguous position that Big Agra holds in society. And some of Uncle Casey's one-liners and conversations with Emily are also questionably immature. There are also directorial questions, like why the British Whitehall (unnecessarily) uses his American accent while his sister Maggie is English (it's explained in a throwaway line, but it still doesn't make much sense). Despite those flaws, the story is undeniably tenderhearted, and Clifford is such a delightful dog that even cynical parents will understand why Emily's heart melts for him.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.