Review by Dan Skip Allen
West Side Story is the latest film by Steven Spielberg, one of the greatest directors of all time. It's another film in a long line of reboots of classic films from the bygone era of cinema. The only difference is the original won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1961. So why reboot it you ask? When Speilberg says he wants to do it, you don't argue and 20th Century let him go because it's Speilberg.
Without sounding redundant, West Side Story is about a group of caucasian teens in New York City who have a beef with a bunch of Puerto Rican teens. They think that the Puerto Ricans are trying to take over their section of New York. What accentuates the situation is that Tony (Ansel Elgort) from the Jets is infatuated by Maria (Rachel Zegler) whose brother is the leader of the Sharks, the rival gang who's fighting for territory in the neighborhood.
There are a few differences between the original and the new version of West Side Story though. One of them is that the store owner in the new film is played by Rita Moreno and in the original, he was played by a man. And in the original, Rita Moreno played Anita which is played by Ariana DeBose in the new film. Also, there is a similar feel and tone to the music in the new version of West Side Story because Leonard Bernstein created the music for the original, and Gustavo Dudamel mirrored a lot of what Bernstein did in the new version. It is a great score by everyone involved.
Some of the things this new film does right that the original didn't was the set production and production value as a whole. The New York streets came to life in this version and that helped make this story more realistic as well. Every little detail was thought of from the people on the streets walking by or driving their cars to the little details like laundry hanging from windows, trash cans, fruits, and vegetables on shop corners. Even store signs and so forth were all very authentic to the time and place this film is supposed to take place in. The clothes and housewares are also spot on. Spielberg spared no expense on the details of this version of West Side Story.
The cast is filled with relative nobodies except for Elgort, Zegler, Moreno, and Brian Darcy James as Officer Krupke and Corry Stoll as Police Lt. Shrank. The kids in the cast, actually adults, do a solid job on the singing and dancing. The choreography is on point throughout the film. The songs are great as well from the original film, like "America", "Tonight", and "Maria".
The new version of West Side Story is very good. It pulls a lot from the original but it has its charm and feel that sets it apart from the original like the set production and production value. The new songs are catchy as well. The acting is fine from all involved, not great but also not bad either. The score is amazing even though it's very similar to what we already saw. There are a lot of new aspects to the score that makes it one of the best of the year.
West Side Story hits theaters on December 10.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
Paolo Sorrentino has had a very eclectic career. His film Youth in 2015 wowed audiences and critics alike and showed what he could do as a director. He had a flair for the odd and different. He then moved into the realm of TV with The Young Pope starring Jude Law and other shows. Now he's back doing feature films again, including his latest, The Hand of God.
The Hand of God follows a family in Naples, Italy in the 1980s. They live, they love, they argue, and they enjoy getting together for various occasions. The film primarily focuses on one member of that family: a young teenage boy (Filippo Scotti) who is learning about life, women and he loves his soccer/football team, Napoli. He experiences a tragedy and it changes him irrevocably, mentally, and spiritually.
This film has two distinct halves to it. The first part is a dramedy where the various members of the family interact at a gathering. They drink, sing, dance, eat and juggle, of all things. And the second half is a character study of a teenage boy who is dealing with a lot. He has to start to learn how to navigate this world on his own. The reason he's on his own is the tragedy right in the middle of this film. That's where the split in the tones comes in as well. It's like it's two different films in one.
A key element of this film is the beautiful game, football, and arguably the greatest player to ever play the game, Diego Maradona. Maradona was at the height of his abilities and fame in the '80s. When he was available for transfer, everybody wanted him. He ended up at Napoli, the home team of those who live in the city and surrounding areas of Naples. That's the main kid in the film. He and his brother were very happy Napoli got Maradona. as well as the rest of the townsfolk.
Sorrentino has a distinct style while filming this movie. It has an up-close, in-your-face style. The scenes look very realistic and up-to-date even though it takes place in the '80s. The colors from dresses and backdrops like walls and street lights pop off the screen. The cinematography and camera work are amazing. There are some absolutely beautiful scenes. The water and cityscape scenes are breathtaking. This is some of the best cinematography of the year. It helped make the film better in every way possible.
The coming of age moments in the film are very surprising at times. The main character goes through some growing pains. The tragedy in the middle of the film hits him hard. He has some anger issues and sexual urges. The tender age he's at is one that most boys his age rebel and act out. He's a little lost though and it takes a while for him to find himself. Football isn't as important as it once was for him. He realizes what really matters in the world. I think a lot of youths this age have similar moments without the tragedy of course.
The Hand of God is a pretty prophetic title. The meaning is what God decides to do regarding our lives means a lot. We're all given our own hand in life and that is at the core of this film. The fact that God decides our fate is a huge part of how and why this film works. We never know what our lot in life is going to be. And sometimes bad things happen and, God if you will, wants to see how we handle what we've been given to do in life. Some people handle it better than others. This film stands on this principle and it works in the end result. The result was a very good film.
The Hand of God is a very good film and has a lead actor, amongst a fantastic Italian cast, that holds his own and makes us, the viewers, go along with him on his journey of self-discovery. The film's cinematography and camera work are breathtaking. It's a great way to get into this film at the start. Along with that is the score which is very good as well. It had some nice somber moments as well as some bigger moments. This film should be considered for the Academy Award for Best International Film next year at the Oscars.
The Hand of God hits theaters on December 1 and Netflix on December 15.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
Flee is one of those rare films that checks a lot of awards season boxes. It's a documentary, an animated film, and a foreign film. The thing is this film could be checking the biggest box when it gets nominated for Best Picture at next year's Academy Awards. It's worthy of many other nominations in many other categories as well.
Flee tells the story of a man who is giving an interview to another man, a documentarian, about his family's harrowing journey of escape from war-torn Afghanistan following the exodus of the Soviet Union from the country in the late '80s and early '90s. The escape involved separating the family and going to and from a few different countries including a period in Russia.
These people go through quite an ordeal, from being almost drowned in a boat to being under constant scrutiny from the Russian police and also being captured at one point and sent back to Russia. This film was very good at describing these scenes very vividly. That aspect of the film worked very well. The Danish subtitles were fine as well. They didn't move too fast. They were easy to read.
The animation style leaves something to be desired. Even though this is an animated film doesn't mean it's very good. The story and narrative of the film extend toward the overall animation. I feel they wanted to get the documentary aspects correct and that made the animation not as important. It's not anything groundbreaking like Pixar or Disney animation, but it's serviceable regarding the overall context of the film.
As far as documentaries go, this is a great one because of all the different styles involved in making the film. The director, Jonas Poher Rasmussen, used some archival footage and photos to help show the people and places in the film. Amin, the main character, decided to be a bit deliberate in telling his story so the editing of him talking about his family's story was very effective to fit this into the ninety minute run time. It could have gone longer.
Flee premiered at the 2021 Sundance virtual film festival this past January. It was widely beloved by critics who saw it back then. That led NEON, the studio that brought Parasite to an Academy Award for Best Picture win in 2019, to pay the exorbitant amount of one million dollars for the North American distribution rights to the film. They are doing a great job of spreading the word of what an amazing film this is.
These types of harrowing tales of survival are the kind of stories that need to be brought to the big screen. Executive Producers Riz Ahmed and producer Nikolaj Coster Waldau, among many others, got behind this film and they knew what they had. Even though this is the Danish submission for the Best International Feature, it is shared by many countries and many languages are spoken in it as well. It is a film the whole world can get behind. And they should. It's one of the best of the year.
Flee hits theaters on December 3.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
The '60s were a tumultuous time for a lot of people of color, especially those in the South. Celebrities, singers, and athletes had a platform to make a change or fight for equality in those days. Arthur Ashe was one of those athletes that had a platform as a professional tennis player to speak up and speak out if he chose to.
As a younger man, Ashe showed what he could do on the tennis court. This got him seen by the tennis coach of UCLA and he offered Ashe a scholarship. This was like a life of freedom for him. He dated many women including white women. He enjoyed his time there in southern California. He then made a very important decision of joining the ROTC and ended up in the Army. This started to make his life more difficult.
When the death of Martin Luther King Jr. happened, this was a turning point for a lot of Black people in the country. That led to more killing at home and abroad in Vietnam. Ashe was at the center of this because of his beliefs. His tennis got in the way, though. This was his profession and the way he could speak on behalf of his fellow African American men and women. Winning matches and tournaments spoke volumes for Ashe and his message of equality.
This film has a lot of different techniques used to make this film what it was. The archival footage of old tennis matches was very good to show his ability on the court. The photos showing various people in his life, as well as newspaper clippings, helped move the story of this and life forward. Talking heads filled in the blanks for the rest of the story. The filmmakers did a great job getting to the bottom of his life in this film.
Ashe's personality was that of a very meek and mild man, but within that, he would speak in a way that got what he wanted to say out. His stance on Apartheid in South Africa was very staunch and he was considered persona non grata in that country. He believed in Nelson Mandela and his mission to stop the mistreatment of Africans in that country. This wouldn't be the last of the stances he would take on civil rights.
His career on the court was very good, but his rival Jimmy Conners sued him for libel off the court for saying he was unpatriotic because he wouldn't play in Davis Cup or join the tennis union. This caused a rift between them and they didn't get along with one another. This all came to a head at the 1975 Wimbledon Tournament final, where these two tennis legends played a great match. This was a huge moment for Ashe and America. Tennis was on the front page of the newspapers and was a household word.
This film showed what a leader and patriot Ashe was. His beliefs and battles he fought meant something to a lot of people as well as the game of tennis, which he loves and cares so much about. The film depicts this man and all his glory. The various ways the film was made to make a through-line to show this man's life was very good and effective. This documentary is another in a long line that gets to the bottom of a groundbreaking person in history. Ashe is that and this film tells his story very effectively.
Citizen Ashe hits theaters and VOD on December 3.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
It's that time of year when all the studios are releasing their holiday movies. Warner Bros. has tapped 8-Bit Christmas as their entry into the Christmas film genre. Some of them are just throw-away films that don't have much meaning to them, while others have a deeper meaning that can transcend the genre. 8-Bit Christmas is one of the latter.
This film picks up in the outskirts of Chicago. Neil Patrick Harris plays a father who has to tell a story to his daughter about Christmas. She needs a lesson about why she should get a cell phone. This is a framing device of the main story. The main story takes place in 1988 and depicts a younger version of Harris's character (Winslow Fegley). He wants a Nintendo video game system for Christmas.
Christmas movies of the past, such as It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, and Elf, have touched audiences worldwide. They hit on something most movies can't: the spirit of the holidays and what that means for millions of people. 8-Bit Christmas captures that spirit like those legendary films from the past. The period aspect of the film was quite nostalgic for me as a child of the 80s while the framing device showed a fatherly moment with his daughter. Both elements worked very well together
This film dealt with kids a lot from the past to the present. It had a feeling of The Sandlot in regards to the various types of kids you would see in a group. The smart kid, the geeky kid, the rich kid, and every type of kid in between, including the school bully, which every film like this needs. The parental figures in the film are very entertaining as well. Steve Zahn and June Diane are typical parents in the '80s: a little overbearing, but very loving and supportive of their son and daughter. Harris is very good as well in his role.
This film is a period piece that reflects on the 1980s. It deals with so much from that period such as references to the Chicago Bears, Super Bowl champs from a couple of years before, Cabbage Patch Kids, a popular doll that every little girl wanted at that time, and the focus of this film Nintendo. My brother was great at Nintendo. He beat games very fast. Mike Tyson's Punch-Out and Super Mario Brothers were favorites of mine growing up in that era. I can relate to the need and love of that gaming system.
8-Bit Christmas has so much going for it, even beyond the time of year it's being released in. The family aspects are very sweet. The camaraderie amongst the youths is a lot of fun in the film. The nostalgic bits bring back so many memories for me. The performances were all terrific as well. I think a lot of people are going to relate to this film like I did. Warner Bros. and HBO Max have another winner on their hands.
8-Bit Christmas is now streaming on HBO Max.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
Stories about the origin and tragic fall of a famous family are nothing new in Hollywood. As books are written or people pass away from one thing or another, these types of stories get brought to the big or small screen. In the case of House of Gucci, it's not the first film or television project about a famous fashion designer, and probably won't be the last.
Young Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) is an innocent law student in Italy when he catches the eye of Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) at a nightclub one evening. She's the daughter of a garbage truck mogul. They eventually hit it off and become romantically linked despite the efforts of his father Rodolfo Gucci (Jeremy Irons) to stop the relationship. His uncle, Aldo Gucci (Al Pacino) takes him under his wing to show him the fashion side of the Gucci business. He takes his now-wife Patrizia along with him to New York. This is the beginning of the end for this thriving family.
Ridley Scott has had a long and storied career in filmmaking since the late '70s and early '80s. His films range from Alien to Blade Runner to Gladiator. This year he's got two awards contenders on his hands — The Last Duel and House of Gucci — each with big-name casts. Both are distinctly different from anything he's done in the past. House of Gucci isn't his first biopic either. American Gangster was a big hit back in 2007. He's aiming for another with his latest film.
Besides the aforementioned cast members, there is also another actor known for immersing himself in his characters. He'll put on a lot of makeup, or in the case of House of Gucci, prosthetics. Paolo Gucci (Jared Leto) is a dim-witted fool with a gift for designing clothes. Leto is unrecognizable as this character, but he has a lot in the script to do despite being unrecognizable. He's like a court jester or a Fredo to put a Godfather reference to good use.
On those lines, the clothes and hairstyles match the aesthetic of the film. The setting of the '80s is very well fleshed out on screen. The scenes in Italy and New York City seem very authentic. Seeing as this story wasn't that long ago, the film looks like it's set in the modern-day even though this took place four decades ago. The crafts departments were on point in House of Gucci as they were in Scott's other 2021 film, The Last Duel. The filmmaking style is very solid.
(L-R) Jared Leto stars as Paolo Gucci, Florence Andrews as Jenny Gucci, Adam Driver as Maurizio Gucci, Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani and Al Pacino as Aldo Gucci in Ridley Scott’s HOUSE OF GUCCI, a Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures film Photo credit: Courtesy of Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures Inc. © 2021 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.
As with all films set in a specific period, it's nice to see music in the film from the '80s. Blondie, The Eurythmics, and George Michael songs ring throughout the film. The entire soundtrack is on point in the film. The score by Harry Gregson Williams is very good as well.
A framing device alludes to an ominous event about to happen at the beginning of the film but doesn't eventually happen until the end. Even though this film and story are based on real events, it's good that Scott and the writers, Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna, were able to flesh out the main story of a jilted lover seeking retribution on her husband that she perceived he did wrong. That's a pretty simple story when it's all said and done.
The power struggle between the members of this rich family is another key aspect of the film. As it's said in Wall Street by Gordan Gecko, "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good." It kind of reminds me of Rome at its height before the fall. Well, maybe a little too much greed isn't good for everybody. A subplot about cheap knock-off bags proves that. The knock-offs were making millions for the family, so who cares if they are being sold as legitimate Gucci bags if the family was getting rich off of them. Some things should be left alone.
House of Gucci was being hailed as an Oscar contender and this year and after seeing it, I have no reason to dissuade those thoughts. This film has brilliant performances from Gaga and Driver, while Leto is crazy good as well. The soundtrack, story, and overall look of the film are all solid. This film has one flaw and it's the length. Some of the meandering scenes of Driver's character could have been cut from the film. That's a small flaw though. Otherwise, this is a solid biopic about the fall of a great fashion designer family.
House of Gucci hits theaters on November 24.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
Kevin Hart is considered one of the best comedians in the world. He's entertained millions with his stand-up routine, comedy specials, and movies over the last couple of decades. He usually has this manic style where he talks fast and screams and yells. He acts scared a lot as well in a lot of the movies he's in. That is very different from the character he plays in True Story. He plays it straight in this series. It's a great career choice.
Hart plays a comedian, not a stretch for him obviously. He goes back to his hometown of Philadelphia to do some shows, but that is just the beginning of his homecoming. He reunites with his older brother (Wesley Snipes) who brings more problems to the table than he's worth. Things start to unravel for Hart's character. This series depicts the life of this comedian with more going on than meets the eye.
The series delves into some interesting topics about fandom, family domestic problems, and some popular topics in films dealing with murder and gangsters. It's interesting how the showrunner Eric Newman and writer Cameron Litvack weaved all these topics into this series. Phones come into play a lot as well, capturing thoughts and conversations that help drive the story forward. Social media plays a big part too. Using modern things to help tell the story helps show creativity in the writing process.
Seven episodes is the perfect number to tell this story in as well. It's not too long or too short. The suspense is riveting at times and the episode length of about a half-hour to forty-five minutes long keeps the viewer wondering what's going to happen next, but doesn't drag on too long. The tension is ratcheted up as each episode comes to a close and the next one begins. The showrunners had a great plan going in. It pays off in the end result.
Everybody in the show is all in on the story. The supporting cast from the personal driver to the agent to the joke writers are all terrific. Even the Greek gangsters are entertaining. They all bring an authenticism to the story and series. They all help drive the story and character development forward. The title of True Story almost feels like it could be real. From the comedian aspect to the fanatic aspect, it's as realistic as a story can get. Even the twists and turns are a bit surprising.
A key aspect of the show is sleeping characters. Things happen while people are sleeping in the show. It creates a time-lapse dynamic to the show where characters lose time and don't know what's going on. The viewer gets lost as well at some points, but as the show progresses these story points are revealed and Hart's character's life starts to unravel before the viewer's very eyes.
Netflix has invested in a lot of films and television shows. Their streaming service has become a staple in people's lives and homes. They have doubled down on new and interesting creators and also let established directors and stars develop new fascinating and groundbreaking projects. One of those is True Story. Hart got involved in the right show to expand his career and his range as an actor. His comedian schtick is nowhere in sight in this series and that's a good thing. Netflix and Hart have another hit on their hands. This is a very good show.
True Story streams on Netflix beginning November 24.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
With the popularity of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Harry Potter films over the past couple of decades also came the deluge of fantasy and young adult book series to be adapted into films or television shows. The latest of these is from Amazon Studios, Sony Television, and showrunner Rafe Judkins. It is based on the best-selling, world-renowned series from writer Robert Jordan called The Wheel of Time.
This series deals with similar themes as The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter films combined. It has a story of a powerful sorceress Moiraine (Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl) a member of a sect of women known as the Aes Sedai who seeks out young men and women who might be the savior of the world known as the reincarnation of the dragon. She rescues five young men and women from a small village when it is attacked by ghastly beasts known as Trollocs led by a demon horse rider with no eyes, Myrddraal. They are also seeking the five.
The show is full of unknown actors and actresses playing all of the young men and women, other than Pike that is. They all have their own character arcs within the show. Along the way, all the main characters run across various other characters, some good and some bad. The show is filled with questionable people with motives all their own. The show deals with all these character arcs separately and as it progresses we learn about each of them one by one. It doesn't rush into anything too soon even though the show is only eight episodes long.
The five are separated after leaving Moiraine and her servant/bodyguard Lan Mandragoran (Daniel Henney). They end up in a dark enchanted city and this separates them into three groups. They all end up going on three separate adventures. A couple of them meet a group of gypsies known as the Tinkers, a band of nomads traveling around from place to place. Three others seek the help of the Aes Sedai, while two others run afoul of a dangerous barkeep and a strange singer Thom Merrillin (Alexandre Willaume) who travels with them, all while keeping their distance from another group known as the White Coats.
The show has some good production value as well as decent visual effects. The show's cinematography is quite breathtaking as well. The show was filmed in Eastern Europe in places like Prague, Slovenia, and Dubrovnik. These are areas not previously seen on television in this form of fantasy show. The dampness of the weather and fall and winter seasons played right into the overall setting of the show. The costumes by Isis Mussenden and hairstyles are pretty amazing as well. It's always nice to see how these shows dress and prepare their actors and actresses for a show such as this.
The show is based on a popular book series of the same name, so it's no secret that it focuses on a sect of women, and women, in general, are at the forefront of all the main story arcs and key aspects of the show. Jordan wanted to show women in positions of power in the series from the get-go. In the era of the MeToo movement, it was a good idea to have this series made into a television show for the world to see. It also has plenty of Asians, Black, and other races besides white in key roles of the show. This just shows how Hollywood has progressed in the regard of casting decisions on its films and television projects.
There are some films and shows similar to this one I've seen before with a similar feel to this one. Not having read the book series, I can't judge the show based on how good the books are or aren't. The show doesn't stand out as anything too great or not so great either. It's an interesting show with intriguing character arcs. The set production, production value, and cinematography are all fine. The cast is also strong as well, with Pike as the standout in a cast of relative unknowns. Season 2 is on its way so maybe it'll be bigger and on a grander scale. Until then we'll have to be happy with what we've gotten in Season 1 on Amazon Prime on November 19th.
The Wheel of Time streams on Amazon Prime beginning November 19. All eight episodes reviewed.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
Rocky IV came out in the heart of the Cold War when the United States and Russia were bitter enemies of one another. Photos of huge military armaments surfaced around the world. This was meant to be the picture of strength and power these countries have. Say what you will about the power of patriotism, it worked in this case. Rocky IV was a huge hit.
Sylvester Stallone came back for this film as actor and director and he didn't miss a beat. This was another great installment of this storied franchise. He always seems to find a way to make Rocky the underdog even when he's the champ. Along with himself returning he brought in Dolph Lundgren as Ivan Drago and Brigitte Nielsen as his wife. They both looked and sounded the part of Russians in the film. They were perfectly cast in these roles.
The boxing in the Rocky films has always been more for show than actual mechanical boxing, even though there are great montages of training scenes with inspirational songs such as "Hearts on Fire" and so forth. The fight scenes are more for dramatic license in the film, but they are very effective in getting the audience into the film. Whether it is the beginning as Rocky beats Clubber Lang or the middle when Apollo dies at the hands of Ivan Drago or when Rocky beats Drago to overcome huge odds at the end of the film.
A part of the Rocky films that to me and many others is so great is the one-liners that people quote from the films. In this case, there are a few great quotes, such as when Adrian (Talia Shire) says to Rocky when he has announced he's fighting Drago, "You can't win". This rings so powerfully in the viewer's eyes. We are genuinely concerned for Rocky. Another great quote comes from Drago, 'I will break you,' before the fight and Rocky during and after the fight, 'I see three of him Paulie," "Hit the one in the middle," and "If I can change and you can change, then everyone can change." That was a truly inspirational line in the film.
Rocky had always been an allegory for the people of America and how we have overcome so much in our lives and the country as a whole has overcome so much. This film is the perfect example of that. It mirrors true life perfectly. Stallone knew what he was doing when he put this film into motion. He knew he had the people on the palm of his hand with this film. The original runtime was 1 hr 31 minutes and this new version of the film is 1 hour 34 minutes. It basically adds more to the montage scenes and gives the audience a few more minutes to hear "Eye of the Tiger" at the end of the film. Which never gets old in my opinion.
Rocky IV is a spectacle no matter how you look at it. From James Brown singing "Coming to America" before the Apollo Drago exhibition fight to the scenes of the Russians in the crowd in Moscow at the Rocky vs Drago fight cheering for Rocky, it is not meant to be very subtle. This film is in your face from the very beginning and it's great for that. Whether people like it or not, they can't deny the fact this film worked on all levels from the production value to the acting and the music. It was a perfect storm that resulted in one of the all-time great sports films in a great franchise. I will always love Rocky IV no matter what anyone says. Even if it's a little dated.
Rocky IV: Rocky vs. Drago hits VOD on November 12.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
Movies such as The Smurfs, Garfield, Marmaduke, and many others have tried to capitalize on the craze of mixing childhood animated classics with live-action human beings and failed to capture the nostalgia of the animated show. Clifford the Big Red Dog is another film on a long list of failures in this genre.
The film version of Clifford the Big Red Dog is a far cry from the PBS animated show of the same name. John Ridder would be rolling over in his grave if he had to see this live-action animated hybrid. It has none of the charms of the animated show. It is so contrived that its contrivances have contrivances. This film doesn't make any sense at all.
A girl (Darby Camp) lives in Harlem with her mother who has to go to Chicago on business. She enlists the help of her uncle (Jack Whitehall) to babysit her. They go for a walk in the park and run across a menagerie owned by an old man (John Close). He shows them a little red dog he found earlier that day. The girl falls instantly in love with the dog, but she's not able to keep him. By a confluence of events, the dog ends up in her backpack at home. She names him Clifford. She makes a wish that she can keep the dog and when she wakes up in the morning the dog isn't little anymore, he's... well, big.
This film has a bunch of characters in it from a rich businessman (Tony Hale) and his assistant (Jessica Keenan Wynn) to classmates and friends of the girl (Isaac Wang) to helpful neighbors (David Alan Greer, Horatio Sanz, Paul Rodriguez) to a veterinarian (Keenan Thompson). They all play a part in this preposterous film. I guess the director, Walt Becker, thought filling out the cast with a bunch of SNL alumni and comedians would make people laugh and not think about how ridiculous this premise really is.
This story gets more ridiculous as it goes. As if a girl running over New York with a big red dog isn't ridiculous enough, the CGI used on the dog is a little wonky. There are size disparities as well. How the dog looks in various scenes is not good at times. The scale of Clifford, said to be ten feet tall, is a little bit in question. How the filmmakers use the dog's size is a little bit unbelievable. One moment he's too big to sit down, the other he's running around playing with a ball in the park that looks the same size as him but is supposed to be smaller with a man inside of it.
This film isn't for adults! It's for kids! It's just too childish and inconsistent from a story point of view for adults to honestly be into this film. The screening I was in had children laughing out loud at various scenes of Clifford doing damage to the girl's house or running amok in New York City. Honestly, this is just childish entertainment. Throw in some cheap sponsorships like Banfield Animal Hospital, a real California-based animal clinic, and you have everything you need for a big-budget (pun intended) movie about this loveable red dog.
It just wasn't for me. I guess I'm too cynical to enjoy a film about a big red dog. In the end, this film doesn't know what it wants to be. A fine family film or a film with a message about the treatment of animals. The cast is huge and most of them are wasted on crazy banter or one-liners just to get a cheap laugh. The good thing is if you have Paramount+ you can watch it at home. Don't waste your money on this. Watch it at home if you must. At least your kids will probably like it.
Clifford the Big Red Dog hits theaters and Paramount+ on November 10.