"Clifford's Really Big Movie" brings the Big Red Dog, beloved by children from Norman Bridwell's books and the TV series, to the screen with style and charm.
Though not exactly a gripping experience for adults, parents have reason to be grateful for a movie that has been so carefully tailored to preschool to first-grade sensibilities.
As a work of animation, directed by Robert Ramirez, the film has simple, straightforward graphics and a rich palette of colors, with bright swaths of blue and purple.
As his fans know, the gigantic Clifford (voiced by the late John Ritter), who has the look of a towering Great Dane, lives on idyllic Birdwell Island, where he is the pet of little blond Emily Elizabeth (Grey DeLisle) and pals around with Cleo (Cree Summer), a poodle, andT-Bone (Kel Mitchell), an amiable bulldog.
One day the three canines enjoy an animal act at a carnival. They are thrilled by Shackelford the highflying ferret (Wayne Brady), Rodrigo the weightlifting Chihuahua (Wilmer Valderrama), tightrope-walking cow Dorothy (Jenna Elfman) and Dirk (Jess Harnell), a dachshund with a rocket-powered skateboard.
Any of those performers sounds mind-boggling, but the act is in trouble, and its leader Larry (Judge Reinhold) is pinning all his hopes on his troupe's somehow winning Tummy Yummies Pet Foods' annual animal talent contest, to be held in Las Vegas.
When Clifford and his friends get an invitation to join the act, they accept.
If Clifford wins he will receive a lifetime supply of Tummy Yummies, which would cut down on the expense of Emily Elizabeth's family in caring for him.
Clifford's adventures are ready to begin in earnest, with a couple of life lessons along the way.
The cast, which includes John Goodman as the not-so-nice owner of Tummy Yummies, is crisp, its voices well-matched to the characters they portray.
There are a couple of pleasant songs in the course of the film, and "Clifford's Really Big Movie" is not that hard for adults to sit through.
'Clifford's Really Big Movie'
MPAA rating: G (general audiences)
Times guidelines: Especially suitable for younger children
John Ritter...Voice of Clifford
Cree Summer...Voice of Cleo
Kel Mitchell...Voice of T-Bone
Judge Reinhold...Voice of Larry
Wayne Brady...Voice of Shackelford
A Warner Bros. Pictures presentation of a Scholastic Entertainment film in association with Big Red Dog Movies. Director Robert Ramirez. Producer Deborah Forte. Screenplay by Rhett Reese and Robert Ramirez; based on the Scholastic Books series "Clifford," written by Norman Bridwell. Character designer Phil Mendez. Editor Monte Bramer. Art director Michael Humphries.
Running time: 1 hour, 13 minutes.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times