- The Washington Times - Friday, October 29, 2021

The filmmakers behind the new live-action “Clifford the Big Red Dog” are rejecting internet criticism that their computer-generated rendering of the giant red hound looks “too big” and “blood-soaked.”

Director Walt Becker and producer Jordan Kerner also told The Washington Times in a Friday interview that the 97-minute Paramount film, opening Nov. 10 theatrically and digitally, aims to comfort families struggling with rampant inflation and pandemic woes.

“What we didn’t want to do was take the cartoon into a live-action world,” Mr. Becker said, adding that he felt confident audiences would accept the big red dog once they saw it “in the context of the film.”



Mr. Kerner said the viral “blood-soaked” criticism on Twitter and other social media platforms came from early test footage that leaked online last year that shows the dog against a white background.

“It was an early version of it,” he said, adding that it looks nothing like the finished film.

They also rejected online criticism of Clifford’s height in the film, pointing out that it was inconsistent and ranged up to 25 feet in Norman Bridwell’s original children’s book series that debuted in 1963.

The filmmakers said they aimed for humor and magical realism in their adaption of the beloved classic, hoping to deliver a nostalgic fantasy for families struggling with COVID-19 lockdowns and rising inflation.

“I feel like it’s what people need right now. For everybody it’s been a rough year and a half,” Mr. Becker said.

A veteran helmer of comedies, Mr. Becker said the new film evokes “those great 30s” fantasies that offered humorous escapism to audiences trapped in the Great Depression, as well as more recent Amblin family films like 1985’s “The Goonies.”

“For me, it’s always about actors, really, and getting a great, magical, fun script,” Mr. Becker said, noting that the presence of John Cleese and “almost everybody” from “Saturday Night Live” in the film gives it a humorous twist.

Production designers added a broad range of colors to 154th Street in Harlem, a diverse area, to give it a magical atmosphere. That included adding older cars in pastel colors.

Mr. Kerner, a veteran producer of family fare including “The Mighty Ducks” and the live-action “Smurfs” franchises, added that he hoped the film’s message of unconditional love would resonate with adults and children alike in a time of “social strife.”

“The movies that we make are movies that don’t have violence in them, they don’t have sex in them, but they always have some idea that underlies them,” he said.

Mr. Cleese plays a magical animal rescuer who tells 12-year old New Yorker Emily Elizabeth Howard that the growth of her red puppy depends on how much she loves him.

“You may not believe it, but there is magic all around us,” Mr. Cleese intones warmly in the film. “There are times it can be hard to find, but sometimes the magic finds us.”

The girl tells Clifford, “I wish you were big and strong and the world couldn’t hurt us,” and he magically swells to a height of 10 feet in the family’s tiny apartment.

Newcomer Darby Camp plays Elizabeth, a struggling middle schooler whose life gets turned around by the magical dog.

Comedian David Alan Grier voices Clifford, portraying the pooch as a loyal but impetuous canine protector who still acts like a puppy despite being taller than any human.

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

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