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Why Clifford The Big Red Dog Thankfully Didn't Have A Bunch Of Poop Jokes

You can call it cynicism, or you can call it the smelliest educated guess around, but I think it’s perfectly logical for someone to go into Paramount’s live-action/CGI adaptation of Clifford the Big Red Dog expecting to see jokes about the adorable behemoth causing havoc in New York City with monstrous poops too large to properly bag up. It’s somewhat difficult to name even a handful of recent youth-skewing movies that didn’t employ numerous fart gags and other forms of butt-related humor. And yet, outside of perfectly tame verbal reference, Clifford thankfully avoided dropping any doggie deuces, as it were, despite the fact that kids do indeed enjoy such gross-out moments.

CinemaBlend spoke with Clifford the Big Red Dog’s director Walt Becker, as well as longtime family film producer Jordan Kerner, about bringing the beloved book character to audiences both in theaters and on Paramount+. After learning how they figured out the magic formula for how large the central canine should be, I put on my classiest investigator hat and asked about the film’s lack of poop jokes, and here’s what Becker told me (as seen in the video above):

Thanks, Nick. I'm glad you picked up on that. Yeah, we just kind of didn't, I guess, want to go there. Do you know what I mean? First of all, because, you know, having dogs, that's not something that I want to have to deal with on a consistent basis. Let's put it that way. I think both Jordan and I always thought you go into these, in quotes, kids' movies with the idea that we're not making a movie for kids or making a movie for adults that's appropriate for kids. And so if you can give them just enough of the physical comedy, kids are going to stay on board, but you don't have to sort of make it hard on parents. So the goal is to sort of equally entertain, whether you're 4 or 104 or anybody in between.

Blessed be the filmmaker who doesn’t always aim for the lowest common comedic denominator. To be sure, of course, Clifford the Big Red Dog’s reference to a #2 comes right after the oversized fluffball let loose with a flood of urine. So it’s not like the film pretended dogs just don’t have to pass solids and liquids. Its suspension-of-disbelief requirements didn’t go THAT far. But let’s also consider that Walt Becker directed Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip, the fourth film in a franchise that often revelled in potty humor. So things could have been much worse. 

And don’t get me wrong. My sense of humor is not so precious that I don’t laugh at the occasional (read: constant) poop joke myself. But it takes the right context, and usually doesn’t involve CGI fur. And while I’m sure there’s a way the Clifford team could have pulled off introducing giant mounds of dog poop in a way that was more humorous than stomach-turning, I have no bones to pick with anyone for avoiding it altogether. Darby Camp's Emily is too adorbs to deal with that kind of mess.

Clifford the Big Red Dog, which has drawn the ire of animal activists at PETA, has made quite a splash with audiences already, and that is definitely not pee-water being splashed around. The children’s film was simultaneously released on the big screen as well as on the streaming service Paramount+, and still managed to pull in $22 million at the box office across its five-day opening weekend. That total didn’t best the theaters-only Marvel flick Eternals in its second weekend, but the fan-splitting superhero film took a big dip from its blockbuster first week of release

It’s obviously unclear how well Clifford will do overall, but with fairly positive reviews boosting its word-of-social-post value, it could easily become one of the biggest family-friendly hits of the pandemic era. If you still haven’t seen the movie yet, check out the trailer below!

Clifford the Big Red Dog is in theaters now, and available to stream for Paramount+ subscribers without additional charges.

Nick Venable

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.