Bullied by classmates at her new school, Emily Elizabeth (Darby Camp) believes she couldn’t possibly feel more insignificant and alone than she currently does. But things go from bad to worse when her mother (Maggie Guillory) leaves town for work and arranges for her estranged and homeless brother, Casey (Jack Whitehall), to babysit Emily.
Casey doesn’t want to disappoint his niece so, on the way to school one morning, he lets Emily visit a mysterious tent filled with rare and wonderful animals. It’s here that Emily first meets Clifford, a tiny, red and impossibly cute puppy. Despite Emily and Clifford’s instant affection, Casey makes Emily hand back the puppy to the magical proprietor, Mr Bridwell (John Cleese). After another atrocious day at school, Emily returns home to find Clifford in her backpack. As she cries herself to sleep that night, she makes a wish that they ‘become big and strong so that the world can’t hurt them’.
Emily awakens the next morning to find that Clifford is the size of an elephant. Unsure of what has happened to him, she and Casey try to take him discreetly to a vet but Clifford is very conspicuous. They soon find themselves going viral online, where the Lifegro company sees Clifford. Lifegro has been trying and failing to enlarge animals genetically in an attempt to end world hunger, and they want to claim Clifford for their own purposes.
Pursued by Lifegro and at a loss as to help Clifford, Emily agrees to send the puppy overseas with her friend Owen’s (Izaac Wang) father. But when Clifford is stolen, it’s up to Emily, Casey and a motley group of neighbours to bring him home and bring Lifegro down.
Bullying; corporate greed; animal testing and cruelty
Clifford the Big Red Dog has some violence. For example:
- Casey kicks a wall and a letter falls off.
- One of Emily’s neighbours says that once he learns magic, he’s going to saw another neighbour in half.
- Clifford is nearly hit by numerous cars and a bike as he tries to get across a busy New York street.
- After he’s big, Clifford accidentally breaks Emily’s bed and desk and later damages the kitchen.
- Clifford plays catch with a man in a giant zorb ball. He smacks the man into trees and rolls him around until the large ball eventually deflates.
- A genetically modified sheep tries to attack the scientists at Lifegro through a glass cage.
- Clifford smashes through a shop window, trying to escape from the Lifegro people who are chasing him.
- A Lifegro scientist shoots a chip into Clifford using a large gun. Clifford yelps in pain.
- People headbutt and smash into each other, throwing chips and sauce and food. They hit each other with links of deli sausages, spoons and spatulas. One person kicks another in the groin.
- A character is tasered in the hand. Then a security guard is tasered back, and another security guard is hit in the head with a can of condensed milk and knocked unconscious.
- Numerous animals are released from the testing facility. They headbutt and trip people. A man is punched in the face.
- Emily rides Clifford through the streets as they’re chased by Lifegro SUVs. There are many near crashes and near misses as they make their way through the city.
There are no sexual references in Clifford the Big Red Dog.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
There is no use of substances in Clifford the Big Red Dog.
Nudity and sexual activity
Clifford the Big Red Dog has some nudity and sexual activity. For example:
- The superintendent who comes to fix a dishwasher bends over and the top of his bottom crack is shown. Clifford sniffs it and moves away. The superintendent thinks the sniff came from Casey.
- A little dog tries to sniff Clifford’s bottom and eventually gets human help to do so.
The following products are displayed or used in Clifford the Big Red Dog:
- Red Bull and M&Ms are both mentioned.
- Tofu products are shown and discussed in a scene where a shopkeeper says he is vegan.
- Apple products are shown in several scenes.
- Google is used, displayed and mentioned.
- Zillow, a real estate app, is shown and mentioned.
There is some coarse language in Clifford the Big Red Dog, including ‘ass’.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Clifford the Big Red Dog is a live action and computer-animated adventure. Based on the children’s book series by Norman Bridwell, this feel-good, family drama features an excellent cast, wonderful graphics and a lot of entertaining banter among characters. Suitable for all but the youngest of viewers, this is a movie that families can enjoy together.
The main messages from Clifford the Big Red Dog are that magic is all around us if we just know where to look and that unique people can change the world.
Values in Clifford the Big Red Dog that you could reinforce with your children include courage, resilience, compassion, teamwork and helpfulness.
Clifford the Big Red Dog could also give you the chance to talk with your children about the real-life consequences of things like:
- corporate greed and how people in power take advantage of others
- animal testing and cruelty.
- bullying of people and creatures who are different, have less money, come from another culture or simply like unusual things.