Martin Short is a talented guy. No doubt about it. But like any talented individual -- drama or comedy -- there comes along some movies so horrifically stupid, so horrifically bad that it is difficult to wrap your head around. Universally panned by critics and audiences alike, earning just $7 million in theaters, is 1994's Clifford.
Flying to Hawaii with his parents, 10-year old Clifford (Short) wants nothing more than to go to Dinosaur World in Los Angeles. How bad does he want to go? He sneaks his way into the cockpit, meets the pilot and when he can't convince him to land.....makes the engine stall by pulling/pushing buttons. Landing in L.A., Clifford's not allowed to get back on a plane -- any plane -- leaving his parents in a lurch. Wouldn't you know it, there's a solution!!! Clifford's uncle Martin (Charles Grodin) is in a spot. He needs to convince his fiance, Sarah (Mary Steenburgen), that he doesn't hate kids. What a coincidence!?! Martin takes Clifford in until his parents come back, even promising his nephew to take him to Dinosaur World. What's in store though when Martin's job forces him to back out? Watch out.
There are just certain movies....yeah, I don't even know how to say it. This is a truly awful movie. It is currently rocking a 9% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, somehow managed a 4.7 rating at the IMDB, and earned a half star review from Roger Ebert. As Ebert so eloquently put it, "The movie is so odd it's almost worth seeing just because we'll never see anything like it again. I hope." The humor is beyond ridiculous. It's to the point I questioned if I was watching a spoof. Is it beyond intentionally dark? Is it smart because it is so dark and bizarre? No, not at all. It is bizarre almost from beginning to end. 'Clifford' was actually filmed in 1990 but with studio issues it wasn't released for four more years.
I do like Martin Short. He's a key and funny ingredient to one of my all-time favorite comedies, The Three Amigos. His Jiminy Glick character is great, but this part? Wow. The sad thing is his character does have some funny moments. To put it lightly, Clifford is....quirky??? He talks to a toy brontosaurus he's named Stefan. He plays a bright red recorder. He wears a suit jacket with shorts and high socks. There are touches in there someplace for a good character, but it goes wasted in a horrifically bad way in a script from Jay Dee Rock and Bobby Van Hayes (wouldn't you know it? This was the only time either ever worked in Hollywood). Behind that innocent smile and seemingly calm childlike demeanor is a demonically manipulative, truly evil little boy. Also, it's just weird that a 40-year old man is playing a 10-year old. It just is.
His cutesy antics are beyond belief. At different points, he almost crashes a plane (a FREAKIN' plane...and it's for laughs), replaces a Bloody Mary with Tabasco sauce as Martin prepares to give a toast, pays off a kid to replace him so he can hide in his dinosaur costume, sets Martin up as a terrorist who has a bomb and is ready to use it, tricks Martin into going to San Francisco on a train and then heading back to his uncle's home and hosting a drinking party, and then replaces his work on a disk with a real-life explosive. In what world is that funny? It is beyond bizarre and never figures out what tone to take. Short is talented and some of his mannerisms here are funny. On the other hand, a little creepiness goes a long way. Director Paul Flaherty wears out his welcome quickly and is never able to recover.
So to get people into this movie, did someone have some highly incriminating evidence against this many people? With 1992's Beethoven, Grodin showed he could do a controlled crazy, but he's all over the place here. He hams it up, mugs it up and never stops, screaming through much of the movie. Steenburgen too looks confused as to why she's here. Dabney Coleman is Martin and Sarah's boss. His developed personality? He wears a toupee and wants to hook up with Sarah. Richard Kind and Jennifer Savidge appear briefly as Clifford's parents, clearly at the end of their rope and ready to get rid of him. Even Ben Savage -- later of Boy Meets World -- makes an appearance in an odd storytelling technique as Clifford -- now a priest in 2050...I have no idea, just go with it, tells the boy how crazy a kid he used to be.
I don't know. I'm confused. Why is Clifford so messed up? Why does he act this way? We don't find out. He's just off-the-wall crazy, no explanation provided. That's the movie. Truly dumb for the sake of dumb. It deserves it's place in the Hall of Worst Movies Ever. By the time the end came along and Martin was trying to kill Clifford on an amusement park ride at Dinosaur World (yes, you read that right), I didn't even know what I was watching anymore.
Clifford (1994): */****