Clifford (1994) – Awfully Good

Products You May Like

Clifford (1994) – Awfully Good

We misplaced the good Charles Grodin this week, however his underrated work will stay on in classics like MIDNIGHT RUN, THE HEARTBREAK KID and…

Director: Paul Flaherty
Stars: Martin Quick, Charles Grodin, Mary Steenburgen


Hell hath no fury like a psychotic 10 12 months outdated who simply needs to go to Dinosaur World.

As a guardian to a child obsessive about films, my mother acquired dragged to quite a lot of movies she had no real interest in, and to her credit score, she all the time supported my burgeoning cinephile behavior with out criticism. The only exception to this, and the one movie I keep in mind her ever actively hating and strolling out on, was CLIFFORD. She stated it gave her nightmares and he or she forbade me from quoting it or ever watching it once more round her. I introduced it as much as her this week once I began scripting this 25 years later and he or she stated the considered Martin Quick as a demented baby nonetheless haunts her.

CLIFFORD martin short charles grodinCLIFFORD martin short charles grodinCLIFFORD martin short charles grodin kiss
I don’t know why my mother thought this film was disturbing.

And it looks like my mother was not alone in her harsh evaluation given this movie’s chilly reception amongst critics and audiences upon its launch. It ended up on quite a few “Worst Of” lists, together with a famously harsh thumbs down by each Siskel and Ebert. Martin Quick and Charles Grodin by no means actually had any main roles after this. The director didn’t make one other film ever once more. And the writers, in a shocking act of foresight, took their names off the film earlier than it even got here out.

It kind of is smart. CLIFFORD is an actively bizarre and transgressive movie throughout the board. It’s clearly offered as a youngsters’s film because of the storybook opening credit and bookend segments that place the story as a morality story with an vital message for youths. Nonetheless, every little thing in-between is a darkish, darkish comedy that appears wildly inappropriate for younger audiences, until you’re making an attempt to point out your youngsters a guidebook for tips on how to be deranged criminals with no regard for civil society or human life.

Watching CLIFFORD now it’s simpler to see what they had been going for and in that sense it does really feel considerably underrated and deserving of its latest cult following. On the floor, this can be a film a couple of tremendous annoying child doing horrible issues, however there’s quite a lot of nice stuff taking place below the hood. The performances are stellar, the jokes land as a rule, and the tone strikes the fitting steadiness of unhinged with out going too overboard—all substances good for what the film is making an attempt to realize. In reality, I’d enterprise that any of the explanations folks appear to hate CLIFFORD are literally issues the forged and crew got down to do on function and so they do them properly.

CLIFFORD ben savage
Fred Savage: Performs a boy listening to the title story in THE PRINCESS BRIDE.
Ben Savage: Performs a boy listening to the title story in CLIFFORD.

Clifford Daniels is a spoiled, hyperactive little boy with a genius-level IQ who makes use of all of his intelligence to harass and manipulate folks in to doing no matter he needs with out take care of penalties. Primarily, he’s a four-foot-tall sociopath whose solely pal is plastic dinosaur toy named Steffen. Maybe that’s why Clifford’s sole motivation in life is to go to Dinosaur World, a Jurassic-themed amusement park in Los Angeles. When the film opens, we discover Clifford on a aircraft to Hawaii, sabotaging the engines to power an emergency touchdown at LAX so he could make his mother and father to take him to Dinosaur World.

Understandably, this appears to be the final straw for Clifford’s mother and pop, who determine to go to Hawaii and dump their son on his Uncle Martin, who lives close by and is conveniently making an attempt to show to his girlfriend Sarah (an under-utilized Mary Steenburgen) how nice he could be with youngsters. Clifford is thrilled when Martin agrees to take him to Dinosaur World after which is equally upset the following day when Martin has an emergency at work and cancels their journey. The remaining hour or so of this film sees Clifford punish and torture his Uncle in an escalating sequence of life-ruining pranks, misdemeanors and felonies—all within the title of making an attempt to get to Dinosaur World (and generally only for no purpose). These embrace, however will not be restricted to:

  • Quite a few counts of property theft, together with stealing somebody’s canine from the airport, which instantly runs away and isn’t seen/talked about once more
  • Taking management of a transferring automobile and threatening to crash it till he will get chocolate
  • Extorting/kidnapping a baby in a fuel station toilet
  • Embarrassing his uncle at an vital social occasion by tricking him into consuming pure Tobasco sauce and placing on lipstick as a substitute of chapstick
  • Altering a recording of his uncle to make it sound like he’s calling in a bomb risk on Metropolis Corridor, which will get him publicly arrested
  • Pretending to run away to San Francisco and tricking his uncle to go there, so he can let a bunch of teenage strangers throw an enormous occasion at his home
  • Planting an explosive system in his uncle’s architectural mannequin of town, which blows up in entrance of a big crowd and causes him to get fired from his lifelong dream job
  • Plotting to interrupt up his uncle’s long-term relationship together with his girlfriend as a result of Clifford has a bizarre sexual attraction to her

And simply suppose, all of this might’ve been prevented if somebody simply took Clifford to Dinosaur World. His uncle even has a lifetime free go so there’s actually no excuse.

CLIFFORD martin short face
Earlier than you get indignant at Martin Quick, this can be a joke about face lifts, not Asian folks.

What Martin Quick does on this film because the title character is completely staggering. The gimmick of seeing the 40 12 months outdated comedian actor gallivanting as a ten 12 months outdated someway works, purely based mostly on his efficiency alone. The filmmakers don’t use prosthetics or make him stroll on his knees, as a substitute opting for easy in-camera methods like placing his costars on packing containers and utilizing barely bigger props to make him appear smaller. Quick simply totally commits with nonstop bodily comedy and a barrage of foolish faces and immature non-sequiturs. Director Paul Flaherty labored with Quick on SCTV and is aware of tips on how to play to his strengths, with Clifford coming throughout like a mixture of a lot of Quick’s well-known characters from that present and Saturday Evening Stay. Flaherty additionally understands that Martin Quick doing all of this horrible stuff is humorous. An precise baby making an attempt to crash a business airliner for private leisure …not a lot. (Sorry, PROBLEM CHILD.) Plus, adults enjoying youngsters is inherently bizarre, which is type of the purpose of the film. Clifford is meant to be off-putting and supremely creepy.

Charles Grodin, in the meantime, can also be at his exasperated greatest in CLIFFORD, enjoying the considerably straight man who slowly however certainly has a psychological breakdown. He and Quick have an simple chemistry and comedian banter and watching them commute is extraordinarily entertaining. There are some exchanges the place Grodin underhandedly mocks and shuts down Clifford that’s only a pleasure to behold. (There may be one particular “Shut up” that may be a true masterclass of comedic supply.) it’s the type of character Grodin actually excelled at enjoying and watching Martin’s psychological colleges slowly deteriorate over the course of 90 minutes till he’s much more deranged than his nephew is so satisfying, regardless that you’re feeling horrible for the man. And when he lastly snaps and takes Clifford to Dinosaur World to experience the rides till he actually dies, you’re there with him totally supportive of kid homicide.

CLIFFORD charles grodin phone
Charles Grodin getting the decision in regards to the BEETHOVEN sequel.

CLIFFORD didn’t have a straightforward path to the massive display screen, largely because of Orion Photos’ chapter and a few ensuing reshoots. The aforementioned bookends, which see Clifford as an aged priest within the 12 months 2050, had been added years later after the movie sat on a shelf and I believe compelled them to retool the ending in methods which might be really weird. As it’s, it looks like a very good chunk of the ultimate act occurs off display screen. It solutions no questions and waves over all of the exhausting stuff—Ignoring the fallout of Martin and Sarah’s breakup, Martin publicly dropping his job, the implications of all of the bomb threats, kidnapping, baby abuse, willfully inflicting hundreds of thousands of {dollars} in damages to an amusement park—all in favor of a sappy feel-good ending that simply doesn’t match with the remainder of the movie.

Nonetheless, I believe CLIFFORD is value watching as a cinematic oddity and as an incredible showcase for its two stars. It’s not for everybody, however for those who wrote it off again within the day, I believe it’s time to provide it one other shot. (Sorry, Mother.)

CLIFFORD charles grodin tobasco
Charles Grodin realizing his agent truly signed him up for the BEETHOVEN sequel.


No, though Clifford’s toy dinosaur will get an eyeful of Mary Steenburgen within the bathe.

CLIFFORD scoreBuy the Movie Watch the Movie

Take a shot or drink each time:

  • Clifford does one thing unlawful
  • Clifford blames Steffen for one thing
  • Charles Grodin mentally breaks down just a little extra

Double shot if:

  • Clifford performs the recorder

Seen a film that must be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email and provides him an excuse to drink.

JoBlo recommends…

Newest Leisure Information Headlines


Products You May Like