Flashback Review: Clifford (MGM’s Flops Vol. 1 #3)

Hello my fellow movie goers from around the globe. Today’s “Flashback Review” is a weird movie starring Martin Short and the late Charles Grodin. The former plays an obnoxious sociopathic ten-year-old named “Clifford,” (not the big red dog) who’s desperate to go to a theme park which is a mix of Disneyland, Six Flags & Universal Studios, but with dinosaurs. The latter plays an architect named Martin, who wants to make marry the woman of his dreams and accomplish the biggest project of his career, open a public transit system. Clifford & Martin cross paths. At first, Martin thinks it’s gonna be easy spending time with his nephew. Suddenly, all heck breaks lose.

Originally slated for a release date in 1991. Clifford was delayed for three years, due to MGM’s subsidiary Orion Pictures going through financial problems as they try to recoup their expenses. It’s a complicated story on why Orion was on the verge of bankruptcy. As of 2021, Orion is currently in business, while MGM, the once powerful movie studio since The Golden Age Of Hollywood is on life support.

Clifford was officially released in 1994. (same year Leon: The Professional came out) It received negative reviews from critics and failed to make a profit at the box office. Gene Siskel & Roger Ebert declared it as one of the worst of movies of 1994 alongside that god awful “North.” Overtime, Clifford gained a cult following.

There are reason why I wanted to share this review, is because TCM host Ben Mankiewicz interviewed Martin Short about his career in show biz. Other reason is to honor Charles Grodin’s memory after his passing from bone marrow cancer.

This review contains SPOILERS. If you’re somewhat interested in this movie? Don’t read this review. If not, read at your own risk. Is Clifford a beloved cult following or just a painfully bad movie? Let’s get down to business.

Warm & Cold Aspects

Warm: Charles Grodin (Midnight Run, The Great Muppet Caper, Beethoven) did a good job for his performance.

Other Cast Members such as Mary Steenburgen, Dabney Coleman (Principal Prickley from Disney’s Recess) & Richard Kind (Bing Bong from Inside Out) all did a good job for their respective performances.

Ben Savage (Boy Meets World) appears as a boy in 2050 running away from catholic school. This prompts an elderly Clifford by telling a story about his childhood as he used to be a bratty psychopath.

Cinematography never had a bad case of technical problems.

Clifford often wears red. A possible in-joke to “Clifford The Big Red Dog?”

Martin is the only sane person I cared about. His two goals is to win the affection of his love interest and open a public transit system. He’s relatable as a white collar worker who wants to get the job done and win the girl of his dreams.

Martin brings up his childhood about wanting to go to an amusement park called, Riverview. Just as he’s about to go, it closed down.

Forced Perspective and other camera trickery was used to create the illusion Martin Short (no pun intended) shorter (excuse the redundancy) than his co-stars. Forced Perspective was also used in “The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy” & “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind.”

The only joke that made me laugh is Martin comparing his boss’s wig to Willie Nelson.

Cold: Martin Short’s performance as the titular character is best described in a few words. Obnoxious, Irritating, Bratty, Abrasive, Whiny, Impatient & Unlikable. Sorry Mr. Short, you leave me no choice but to Double Down your performance. Clifford is one of your worst alongside “A Simple Wish.” Another absolutely ridiculous critical flop.

Jokes weren’t funny except that one joke over Martin comparing his boss’s wig to Willie Nelson.

The Prologue set in 2050 felt unnecessary. I think it’s an excuse to spare Clifford, instead of Martin letting him fall to his death from a mechanical dinosaur in Dinosaur World. It’s like letting Casey Anthony get away with killing her baby daughter.

A Green Screen is fake with Clifford rides a roller coaster.

I know Clifford has a change of heart telling a boy about his past, but that doesn’t excuse the fact he’s a manipulative monster. Martin said he’d not be affiliated with The Manson Family. If I were him, I wouldn’t make eye contact with Lena Dunham. She played a member of The Manson Family in “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.” I can’t that “tw*t.

The Casting over Martin Short feels odd . I don’t buy it his portrayal as a ten-year-old boy doesn’t seem quite right.

Clifford watches a group of topless tribal women on TV. I almost forgot this movie is PG. I wonder how many parents reacted to watching this with their kids. Kate Winslet showing her tatas in “Titanic” is less shocking than this piece of crud!

After Clifford tricks Martin by making him go on a train to San Francisco, a Musical Number with Clifford singing San Francisco felt outta place with no impact to the plot whatsoever. As Doug Walker/Nostalgia Critic calls it “A Big Lip Alligator Moment.”

When Clifford sees Martin’s fiancé Sarah for the first time. Whimsical music plays in the background, indicating he’s falling in love. I find it disturbing when it comes to a little kid falling in love with a grown up. It’s repulsive and definitely raises red flags.

A dramatic moment is ruined when Martin talks about his childhood of a theme park he wanted to go to is torn down. Clifford butchers the moment by making funny faces. He doesn’t show any compassion. Trevor Phillips from “Grand Theft Auto V” has some redeeming qualities.

The movie is somewhat dated. For example, Clifford invites a bunch of teenagers wearing 80s hairstyles at Martin’s place in exchange to take him to Dinosaur World. Clifford was filmed in 1990. It was the end of The 80s. The 90s was yet to acquire many trends such as Grunge, PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Pepsi Crystal, Pog, Spice Girls, The X-Files, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon etc.

After Martin saves Clifford, he lets him be a ring bearer at his wedding. Why didn’t he take him to juvenile prison?

The moral of the story is sending 287 letters of apologizing. Clifford gives advice to the boy from 2050 by doing the same thing Clifford did to Martin. I don’t think the boy is gonna earn forgiveness. I bet he’s going to juvenile prison for threatening a bomb threat at school. This would never happen in real life.

Product Placement (Pee Pee for short) featuring brands such as 7-11, Pepsi, JVC, People Magazine, AT&T, AmTrak & Wonder Bread.

The Final Verdict: F, FOR FAKER!

From my point of view, Clifford is a painfully bad movie lacking substance. Do not waste your previous spare time on this clunker. As a kid, I used to like it. Now that I’m older, it has a lot of problems. If you wanna watch a great movie featuring a psychopath, I strongly recommend “A Clockwork Orange,” “The Silence Of The Lambs,” “Natural Born Killers,” “American Psycho” & Joaquin Phoenix’s Oscar winning performance as “Joker.”

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