Clifford the Big Red Dog

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 2/1/22;
Paramount;
Family;
Box Office $48.59 million;
$25.99 DVD, $31.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG’ for impolite humor, thematic elements and mild action.
Stars Jack Whitehall, Darby Camp, Tony Hale, Sienna Guillory, David Alan Grier, Russell Wong, Izaac Wang, Kenan Thompson, Tovah Feldshuh, Paul Rodriguez, Russell Peters, Horatio Sanz, Rosie Perez, Alex Moffat, Jessica Keenan Wynn, John Cleese.

Based on the long-running children’s book series of the same name, the Clifford the Big Red Dog movie is a prime example of stretching the source material to fit the feature-length format.

In this case, it’s the adventures of a giant dog and the little girl who owns him.

The plot is a bit like the live-action Dumbo, with a framing device involving John Cleese as a narrator talking about love and magic, which is very reminiscent of Seth MacFarlane’s Ted.

Clifford is a bright red puppy who is left on the streets when the rest of his doggy family is taken to the pound. He gets scooped up by Mr. Bridwell (Cleese, whose character is named for Clifford’s creator, Norman Bridwell) and taken to his traveling exhibit of rescued animals.

Meanwhile, sixth-grader Emily (Darby Camp) is left in the care of her irresponsible uncle (Jack Whitehall, getting some serious exposure between this and Jungle Cruise) when her mother (Sienna Guillory) is called away on business. On the way to school, Emily sees Bridwell’s tent and is enamored with Clifford, who somehow ends up in her backpack.

Since her apartment doesn’t allow pets, she has to take him back the next day, but overnight he grows up to be 10 feet tall, but still as playful as a puppy. And Bridwell, being a mysterious Mary Poppins magical type character, has disappeared.

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While Emily and her pals try to find Bridwell to see if Clifford can be returned to normal, his playful demeanor in public makes the news, attracting the attention of the owner of a biotech firm trying to genetically engineer larger animals for food. So he wants to capture Clifford and study him to see why he’s so big. And the chase is on.

The movie has some fun dealing with some of the obvious issues that would arise with a gigantic dog (like how to give him a medical exam) while sidestepping others (like how much he would  have to eat to stay healthy at that size).

Like the dog at the center of it all, Clifford ends up being some harmless fluff that should keep young viewers entertained.

The Blu-ray of Clifford the Big Red Dog includes four behind-the-scenes featurettes and three deleted scenes.

The deleted scenes run nearly three minutes total and don’t amount to much more than a few additional moments of humor.

The six-and-a-half-minute “Part of the Pack” is a general making-of featurette, featuring interviews from the cast and filmmakers. The three-and-a-half-minute “Acting Is for the Dogs” focuses on the visual effects used to bring Clifford to life, particularly the puppeteers who provided a live reference model on set.

The seven-minute “The Magic of Bridwell” featurette focuses more on the original “Clifford” children books and how they were conceived of by creator Norman Bridwell, who appears via archive interviews (sadly, he died in 2014).

Finally, there’s the two-and-a-half-minute “Tips & Tricks for Taking Care of a 10-Foot Dog” is a tongue-in-cheek piece that is pretty much exactly what the title makes it sound like.

Originally published as a digital review Dec. 20, 2021.

Good Boys

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 11/12/19;
Universal;
Comedy;
Box Office $83.08 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for strong crude sexual content, drug and alcohol material, and language throughout — all involving tweens.
Stars Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, Brady Noon, Molly Gordon, Midori Francis, Izaac Wang, Millie Davis, Josh Caras, Will Forte, Sam Richardson, Stephen Merchant.

As Master Yoda once said, “Truly wonderful the mind of a child is.” But what happens when you make them wonder about sex, drugs and random debauchery?

And that’s where Good Boys comes in, and the fact that it comes from Seth Rogen’s production team pretty much explains exactly what to expect from the film.

It’s Stand by Me meets American Pie, a satire of the simplistic perspective kids tend to have of things. As such, it mines the intersection of the innocence of children and the seediness of the adult world for great laughs.

The question of whether how appropriate it is for such a young cast to form the basis of a film like this is not lost on the filmmakers and comes up several times in the bonus materials. Before the film had come out they had already hit upon the audacious marketing hook that the film was too raunchy for its young stars to even see it. Nowhere is this concept more prominent than on the film’s own Blu-ray box art, which comes emblazoned with an oversized graphic of the MPAA ‘R’ rating and the three main characters glancing upward at a line proclaiming “You Must Be This Tall to See This Movie.”

The film stars up-and-comer Jacob Tremblay as 12-year-old Max, who gets invited to a kissing party and freaks out because he doesn’t want his inexperience to scare off the girl that he likes. So he enlists his best friends, Thor (Brady Noon) and Lucas (Keith L. Williams) to help him research how to kiss. Eventually, the group, who call themselves the Bean Bag Boys, decide to use an expensive drone that is the prized possession of Max’s father (Will Forte) to spy on some local teenagers making out.

But when the drone gets destroyed, the Bean Bag Boys must scheme to come up with the funds to replace it, skip school and embark on a trek to the local mall (a distant journey of at least four miles) to replace it before Max’s dad gets home and grounds him so that he can’t go to the party. Along the way, they must deal with the teenagers they were spying on hunting them down for drugs they accidentally stole, not to mention cops, frat boys, sex toys and the peer pressure of drinking more than three sips of beer.

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The Blu-ray includes a fun, laid-back commentary from the film’s co-writers — director Gene Stupnitsky and producer Lee Eisenberg — that covers many of the inspirations for the film and the specific jokes involved.

There’s a two-minute alternate ending and more than 10 minutes of deleted and alternate scenes, many of which are alluded to in the commentary.

Also included is a two-minute gag reel and six featurettes that provide about 14 minutes of behind-the-scenes material. These offer the usual tidbits about the cast and filmmaking process, including the interesting nugget that the school used in the film was Tremblay’s actual school in Vancouver.

But it all comes back to the filthy language used by the young stars, and some hilarious discussions about how they have no idea what the dialogue they’ve been given to say actually means.

The mind of a child, indeed.