A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
- Parents say
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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?
Is it ever OK to lie or to leave home without talking to your family about what's wrong? Why, or why not?
- In theaters: April 23, 2004
- On DVD or streaming: August 24, 2004
- Cast: John Goodman, John Ritter, Wayne Brady
- Director: Robert Ramirez
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Book Characters, Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Friendship
- Run time: 73 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- MPAA explanation: all audiences
- Last updated: February 16, 2021
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