Lionsgate // 2001 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bryan Pope (Retired) // March 22nd, 2005
"Hi! I'm Emily Elizabeth and this is Clifford the big red dog."
Author/illustrator Norman Bridwell's loveable red mutt, Clifford, has been a mainstay of the Scholastic Book Club -- not to mention children's literature in general -- for as long as I can remember, and for good reason. Bridwell's cheery artwork and uncomplicated stories never get in the way of his universal theme of unconditional love.
As the story goes, little Emily Elizabeth loved her puppy Clifford so much that he grew and grew and grew and...you get the idea. The big mutt took up so much room that Emily Elizabeth's family had to move from the city to the wide open spaces of Birdwell Island. Bridwell wisely avoids commenting on the obvious drawbacks of having a pet the size of a two-story house (nary a mention of the sky-high dog food bills or, good heavens, enormous pooper scoopers). Instead, his stories focus squarely on fitting in and making friends when you're an outsider. I can't think of a better message for kids.
I'm happy to report that Clifford the Big Red Dog has been lifted from his pages without losing so much as one ounce of charm. Sure, Clifford speaks now, but as voiced by the late, great John Ritter, Clifford is still as gentle and appealing as ever. Along with Clifford, everything you remember from Bridwell's books is here: plucky moppet Emily Elizabeth, crotchety Mr. Bleakman and his ever-patient wife (voiced by the inimitable Edie McClurg), Cleo the purple poodle, the portly and insecure T-Bone, and the postcard-ready Birdwell Island.
Clifford the Big Red Dog: Clifford Tries His Best/Clifford's Schoolhouse contains eight shorts from the PBS television series:
* "Dog Park": Clifford and his canine friends stir up mischief at the Birdwell Island park, especially for the cantankerous Mr. Bleakman.
* "The Big Sleepover": Clifford gets homesick for Emily Elizabeth while she's away one night.
* "And Birdy Makes Three": Clifford becomes jealous when Emily Elizabeth plays mom to a homeless baby bird.
* "Clifford's Doggie Reunion": Emily Elizabeth's cousin Laura and her dog visit Birdwell Island.
* "Teacher's Pet": Clifford, Cleo, and T-Bone attend obedience school.
* "Nobody's Perfect": Emily Elizabeth and her classmates prepare for "Silly Sports Day."
* "Clifford and the Beanstalk": With a little help from Clifford, Emily Elizabeth and her classmates put on a production of "Jane and the Beanstalk."
* "Get Well": When Emily Elizabeth gets sick, Clifford and his friends make her get-well presents.
Parents, you can feel good about your kids hanging out with Clifford and Emily Elizabeth, especially on this pleasant release. The shorts are presented in their original full-screen formats with stereo sound, and they look and sound as good as they do on PBS, which is to say quite fine. Clifford's world is painted in bright primary and secondary colors, and these colors almost pop off the screen. The disc includes a few brief extras, including four 90-second cartoons starring Clifford's favorite storybook character, Speckle the Dog. A sing-along is also included (for the title song only), along with a trailer gallery for other Scholastic titles. The nicest surprise, though, was the activity booklet that accompanied the disc. The booklet provides page after page of games and pictures your child can color.
Clifford, you big red lug, you're free to go!
Review content copyright © 2005 Bryan Pope; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Activity booklet
* Speckle stories
* Trailer gallery
* Clifford Web Site