Lionsgate // 2004 // 112 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Lacey Worrell (Retired) // May 7th, 2005
"I love Clifford, the Big Red Dog!"
Children's entertainment is much like entertainment aimed at adults; there is really, really good stuff out there, and then there is that which borders on the abysmal. The long-running Clifford television series is excellent, especially for very young children; it is the kind of show that teaches without preaching, and parents can feel confident (unlike with many animated feature films these days) that their children will not inadvertently be exposed to anything questionable.
Clifford is an oversized dog who lives on the mythical Birdwell Island with his loving, pint-sized owner, Emily Elizabeth. His unique size makes for fun adventures with his human and canine friends. Many recognizable voices are used in this series, most notably the late John Ritter (Three's Company). Other voice talents include Edie McClurg (Higglytown Heroes), Kel Mitchell (Kenan & Kel), Cree Summer (A Different World), and Erika Alexander (The Cosby Show).
The 10 stories in this collection include the following:
* "Jetta's Tall Tale"
Emily Elizabeth's friend Jetta finds she has to keep telling more lies after she invents a story about a pet parrot who is even bigger than Clifford.
* "Everyone Loves Clifford"
As the neighborhood kids ready themselves for the big kite-flying contest, they find that there is no wind, meaning the contest may have to be cancelled. It's Clifford to the rescue, as he manages to create wind all on his own.
* "Clifford Grows Up"
Emily Elizabeth reminisces about her family's home in the city, back when Clifford was just a puppy.
* "Cyber Puppy Problems"
When Jetta receives a robotic cybo-pet as a birthday gift, she ignores her real-life dog, causing him to feel left out. Jetta soon discovers that a cybo-pet can't replace a real dog, no matter how many tricks it can do.
* "Welcome to the Doghouse"
Emily Elizabeth searches for an appropriate dog house for her oversized canine friend.
* "A Friend in Need"
It's Keep Birdwell Island Beautiful Day, and attention hog Jetta takes the most high-profile job when it comes time to ready the island for the festivities. She soon finds herself in over her head.
* "Stinky Friends"
Clifford, T-Bone, and Cleo get themselves into a patch of stinkweed, and the residents of Birdwell Island are more than happy to clean them up.
* "Jetta's Friend"
Jetta is excited when her pen pal visits from the city. Overachiever Jetta plans every second of the visit, but becomes very upset when things don't go according to plan.
* "Friends Forever"
T-Bone's friend from his puppy days, Hamburger, arrives on the ferry for a visit.
* "Forgive & Forget"
Clifford's friends become upset when he promises to meet them and doesn't show up as planned.
This disc is recommended for ages 3 and up, which is appropriate; at 3, children should be able to follow the story in each segment. This DVD clocks in at just under two hours, which is extremely generous in light of the fact that many children's DVDs don't even break one hour. The stories are gentle and at times funny, and just short enough to hold the attention of little ones.
The Clifford series does an excellent job of showcasing characters' diversity without hitting kids over the head with it. For instance, Jetta's self-importance is a recurring theme, but the other characters are still kind to her, even when she is at her most obnoxious. She is accepted for who she is, flaws and all. The residents of Birdwell Island are of different ethnicities, and there is even a character in a wheelchair, but the characters act as though this is part of the landscape rather than something "very special" that has to have attention called to it over and over again. Even Clifford, with his oversized bulk frequently the source of problems, is treated with dignity and respect; his differences are embraced rather than ridiculed, and it is subtly effective.
It should also be noted that there are three bonus shorts included on the disc. They feature Speckle, a canine storybook character referred to when Emily Elizabeth reads Clifford bedtime stories.
The simple animation is unspectacular, even on DVD, although the colors are crisp and bright. Children older than six may find the simple storylines not compelling enough, but those younger than six will likely be delighted.
In light of the passing of John Ritter, who wasn't particularly well-known for this lasting contribution to children's entertainment until his death, this is a wholesome collection of entertaining stories for the littlest members of your household.
Judgment in favor of Everyone Loves Clifford. It is a solid investment for families who do not have a big DVD budget and therefore need their children to watch films over and over (and over) again. Also be sure to check out Clifford's Big Movie, a fine feature film that more than does this series justice.
Review content copyright © 2005 Lacey Worrell; 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: 112 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Trailer Gallery
* Speckle Stories
* Official Clifford Site