A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that in this full-length animated movie meant for very young kids, there are a few incidents in which misunderstanding, jealousy, and lying result in mild suspense and jeopardy to the main characters. Little kids may feel sad when Clifford the Big Red Dog and his buddies leave home, when Emily Elizabeth realizes that Clifford is missing, and when Clifford is captured and taken away. But worrisome events resolve quickly; the film has a happy ending; and characters who've misbehaved learn important lessons.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?
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 children 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 children know that problems can be solved, but this suggests that they cannot be happy unless they make sure something bad happens first.
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 toddlers, who live among giants and are thus drawn to huge, powerful but kind creatures who love children (like Barney). Children 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.
- 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: September 20, 2019
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