A take-no-chances transfer of the money-printing franchise from page and tube to the bigscreen. Harmless tale of the giant pooch helping out some itinerant performing animals while longing for home will go down smoothly with the preschool faithful, but anyone over 5 will feel antsy, indicating modest theatrical returns before ancillary cash-in.

Clifford the big red dog gets bigger than ever in “Clifford’s Really Big Movie,” a take-no-chances transfer of the money-printing franchise from page and tube to the bigscreen. Harmless tale of the giant pooch helping out some itinerant performing animals while longing for home will go down smoothly with the preschool faithful, but anyone over 5 will feel antsy even given the brief running time, indicating modest theatrical returns before ancillary cash-in. As a point of comparison, “Barney’s Great Adventure,” with its similar demographic, grossed $12.2 million domestically in 1998.

Living blissfully on Birdwell Island in the care of young girl Emily Elizabeth, Clifford, who towers over houses but takes care not to stomp on anyone or anything, comes under the mistaken impression that he’s no longer welcome at home because the family can’t afford to feed him.

Dejected, he hooks up with a traveling circus that includes a motley crew of critters whose act will be disbanded unless they shape up fast and win a national talent contest. Motivated by the fact that the grand prize includes a lifetime supply of his favorite food, Tummy Yummies, the always genial giant pooch willingly becomes the star attraction, insuring a happy ending for all concerned, save for some sneaky contest operators who hope to pull a fast one on the winners.

Deliberate absence of real conflict, dramatic excitement and humor makes this sort of fare passe for any kid who’s begun getting into superheroes or even the spunky charm of “Sponge Bob.” But while character animation is not complex, design elements are colorfully agreeable, and voicings by the likes of the late John Ritter, in the title role, Wayne Brady, Jenna Elfman and John Goodman are lively.

Clifford's Really Big Movie

Animated

Production

A Warner Bros. release of a Scholastic Entertainment Film in association with Big Red Dog Prods. Produced by Deborah Forte. Co-producers, Jef Kaminsky, Martha Atwater. Directed by Robert Ramirez.

Crew

Screenplay, Rhett Reese, Ramirez, based on the Scholastic book series "Clifford" written by Norman Bridwell. (Technicolor); editor, Monte Bramer; music, Jody Gray; songs, Gray, David Steven Cohen; art director, Michael Humphries; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS), Robert Poole II; unit director, Steve Trenbirth; voice director, Susan Blu; character designer, Phil Mendez; storyboard supervisor, Kathy Carr; supervising producer, Liz Young; associate producer, Kathleen Zuelch; consulting producers, Bill Schultz, Mike Young; casting, Mary Hidalgo. Reviewed at AMC Burbank 16, Burbank, April 17, 2004. MPAA Rating: G. Running time: 73 MIN.

With

Voices: Clifford - John Ritter Shackelford - Wayne Brady Emily Elizabeth/Mrs. Howard - Grey Delisle Dorothy - Jenna Elfman George Wolfsbottom - John Goodman Dirk - Jess Harnell T-Bone - Kel Mitchell Larry - Judge Reinhold Jetta/Madison - Kath Soucie Cleo - Cree Summer Rodrigo - Wilmer Valderrama
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