Clifford's Really Big Movie

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Clifford's Really Big Movie Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Animated dog tale has some peril, emotional intensity.
  • G
  • 2004
  • 73 minutes

Parents say

age 3+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 3+
Based on 7 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Brief looks at life in a carnival and the differences between rural island life and city life. Talk of some of the responsibilities required in taking care of a dog.

Positive Messages

Misunderstandings can happen and sometimes cause problems. It's better to talk things over than to jump to conclusions. Lying, even about little things, is never a good idea.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Clifford and his friends always have good intentions but make mistakes (even lie when they pretend to be strays) as they set out to win a contest and help Clifford's family. Everyone learns a valuable lesson. Shackelford is very selfish through much of the movie but learns to appreciate teamwork, grows to value his old and new friends. Most grown-ups and parental figures are portrayed positively. Ethnic diversity throughout.

Violence & Scariness

Some cartoon action, pratfalls, and close calls: A cow loses her balance on a tightrope, a smoking runaway car careens down a hillside, Clifford is captured and taken away, guards with nets and lasers chase the heroes through an amusement park. Several falls and bonks -- no one is injured. Some sadness for younger or more sensitive viewers when Clifford decides to leave home.

Sexy Stuff

Joke in which a man says that he's going to "see a man about a dog" that's likely to go over the heads of young kids.


Clifford the Big Red Dog is a popular toy and programming franchise.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Clifford's Really Big Movie is a 2004 animated movie in which Clifford leaves home to try to win a talent contest where the first prize is a lifetime supply of dog food. For younger and more sensitive viewers, scenes in which Clifford leaves home, Emily Elizabeth is shown missing Clifford, and Clifford is captured and taken away are likely to be sad, even as Clifford leaves for good reasons and has every intention of coming back to Birdwell Island. There's some peril, including a scene in which characters are in a broken-down camper that's rolling backward down a steep and narrow mountain road. Some animated pratfall violence includes a cow losing her balance on a tightrope, for instance. One joke -- in which an adult says he's going to see "a man about a dog" -- is likely to go over younger kids' heads. Overall, Clifford always cares about and helps his friends and family. One of the characters, Shackelford, acts selfish, but he learns his lesson and grows to appreciate his old and new friends, as well as the value of teamwork.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 3 and 5-year-old Written bycatht September 21, 2010

A truly good movie for little ones

My kids are pretty sensitive to scary scenes, and as their mother, *I'm* pretty sensitive to inappropriate scenes and language as well! So I was happily s... Continue reading
Parent of a 3 and 5-year-old Written byskylarkochava May 4, 2021
Kid, 12 years old August 23, 2020
Kid, 10 years old April 9, 2012

Best kid movie ever!!!

Clifford's really big movie is a great movie from a very big red dog! I saw this in theaters and I couldn't wait to get it on dvd. This movie is great... Continue reading

What's the story?

Clifford (voice of the late John Ritter in his last role) lives with Emily Elizabeth and her family on dogbone-shaped Birdwell Island. His best dog friends are T-Bone (voice of Kel Mitchell) and Cleo (voice of Cree Summer). When Clifford overhears Emily Elizabeth's parents talk to a neighbor about how much he eats, Clifford thinks he's too much of a burden for the family and decides that he, T-Bone, and Cleo should join an animal act and compete for a prize of a lifetime supply of pet Tummy Yummies. The animal act includes a trapeze artist ferret named Shackelford (voice of Wayne Brady) and a tightrope-walking cow named Dorothy (voice of Jenna Elfman). They are managed by Larry (voice of Judge Reinhold), who loves them very much but hasn't been able to make the act successful. Their only chance is to win that contest. But, Shackelford says, to do that, they need something big. Enter Clifford.

Is it any good?

This movie will entertain preschoolers, but it's not a perfect viewing choice. The limited animation style looks static on the big screen, and the movie is too long for its intended age group, even at just 75 minutes. The story itself is questionable, with Clifford and his friends leaving home without thinking about how upsetting that will be for their families. The song lyrics justifying it are downright unsettling at times; it cannot be wise to sing to kids about how "You've got to be lost if you want to be found. ... It only gets better after it gets worst / happy-ever-after needs the scary part first." It's fine to let kids know that problems can be solved, but this suggests that they cannot be happy unless they make sure something bad happens first.

Still, Clifford is not just a Big Red Dog; he's a big red phenomenon, hero of a series of books by Norman Bridwell, an animated PBS series, a live road show, and now this film. Clifford is a really, really big red dog, which is part of his appeal to preschoolers, who live among giants and are thus drawn to huge, powerful, but kind creatures who love kids (like Barney). Preschoolers also like the way that Clifford explores the world around him, learning gentle lessons about getting along with others and solving problems like finding lost toys and not being afraid of a storm.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Clifford got the wrong idea by hearing only part of what Emily Elizabeth's parents said about him. What should he have done instead of leaving?

  • How do you think the animated movie version of Clifford compares with the picture book and TV versions of Clifford stories?

  • Is it ever OK to lie or to leave home without talking to your family about what's wrong? Why, or why not?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dog and other animal stories

Themes & Topics

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