Clifford the Big Red Dog

image for Clifford the Big Red Dog

Short takes

Not suitable under 5; parental guidance to 8 (violence, crude humour, themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Clifford the Big Red Dog
  • a review of Clifford the Big Red Dog completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 22 December 2021.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 5 Not suitable due to violence, crude humour and themes.
Children aged 5–8 Parental guidance recommended due to violence, crude humour and themes.
Children over the age of 8 Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Clifford the Big Red Dog
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild crude humour and slapstick violence
Length: 96 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Bullied by her classmates at her new school, Emily Elizabeth (Darby Camp) believes she could not possibly feel more insignificant and alone than she currently does. Things go from bad to worse when her mother (Maggie Guillory) leaves town for a work commitment and arranges for her estranged and homeless brother, Casey (Jack Whitehall), to babysit Emily. Not wanting to disappoint his niece, on her way to school one morning, Casey allows Emily to visit a mysterious tent filled with rare and wonderful animals. It is here that Emily first meets Clifford, a tiny, red, impossibly cute, puppy. Despite the instant affection on both sides, Casey makes Emily hand the puppy back to the magical proprietor, Mr. Bridwell (John Cleese). After another completely atrocious day at school, Emily returns home to find Clifford in her backpack and, 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 inconspicuously take him to a vet but Clifford is anything but unnoticeable. They soon wind up going viral online where the Lifegro company, which has been trying and failing to genetically enlarge animals in an attempt to end world hunger, sees Clifford and determines to claim him 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 forcibly stolen it is up to Emily, Casey and a motley group of neighbours that band together, to bring him home and bring Lifegro down.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Bullying; Corporate greed; Animal testing and cruelty.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie, including:

  • Casey kicks a wall and a letter falls off.
  • One of Emily’s neighbours says that once he learns magic he is 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.
  • Once big, Clifford accidentally breaks Emily’s bed and desk and later damages the kitchen.
  • Clifford plays ‘catch’ with a guy in a giant zorb ball. He smacks him into trees and rolls him around until the large ball eventually deflates.
  • A genetically modified sheep tries to attack the scientists at Lifegro through the glass cage he is kept in.
  • 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-looking gun. Clifford yelps in pain.
  • Characters head butt and smash into each other, throwing chips and sauce and food. They hit each other with links of deli sausages, spoons and spatulas and one character kicks another in the groin.
  • A character is tazered in the hand. Two security guards are then taken out. One is tazered back and another is hit in the head with a can of condensed milk and knocked unconscious.
  • Numerous animals are released from the testing facility. They head-butt people, trip them and a man is punched in the face.
  • Emily rides Clifford through the streets as they are being chased by numerous Lifegro SUVs, all intent on stopping them. There are lots of near crashes and near misses as they make their way through the city.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • There is a sheep that appears normal. It angers easily and will suddenly contort into a violent and crazed looking creature and will then try to attack whoever is near it.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Two men from the pound come to collect Clifford’s mother and siblings. They miss Clifford as he is under a blanket. By the time he wriggles out from under it they are gone and he is trapped alone in a garage. He whimpers and cries and begins to howl before dejectedly laying down on the floor.
  • Clifford and Emily must say good-bye when it appears that the Lifegro company will stop at nothing until they capture Clifford. It is a heart wrenching scene as Emily hugs Clifford and then tearfully tells him to be good and that she loves him while he paces back and forth on the tug boat trying to get back to her, all the while looking anxious and sad. Clifford is later shown being captured by Lifegro and taken back to their factory headquarters. When Emily finally finds him he is laying, apparently unconscious, while scientists seem to be running tests. Neither of these scenes are particularly scary, however, they are heartbreakingly sad and could distress some young viewers.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

  • Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Red Bull and M&M's are both mentioned.
  • Tofu products are shown and discussed in a scene where a shopkeeper proclaims he is vegan.
  • Apple products are displayed in a variety of scenes throughout the film, predominately phones and laptops.
  • Google is used, displayed and mentioned.
  • Zillow (the real estate app) is shown and mentioned.

Sexual references

  • None noted.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • The superintendent who comes to fix the dishwasher bends over and the top of his butt crack is revealed. Clifford sniffs it and moves away leaving the superintendent thinking it was Casey.
  • A little dog tries to sniff Clifford’s butt and eventually gets human help to do so.

Use of substances

  • None noted.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Ass.

In a nutshell

Clifford the Big Red Dog is a real life / computer animated adventure. Based on the children’s book series by Norman Bridwell, this feel-good, family, drama features an excellent cast, wonderful computer animated graphics and lots of entertaining banter between characters. Suitable for all but the youngest of viewers this is a film that families can enjoy together.

The main messages from this movie are that magic is all around us if we just know where to look; and that the people who are unique are the ones that change the world.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Courage
  • Resilience
  • Compassion
  • Teamwork
  • Helpfulness.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Corporate greed and how those in power will do all they can to take advantage of easy targets.
  • Animal testing and cruelty.
  • Bullying those who are different, those who have less money, those who come from another culture or those who simply like things that others find unusual.